Scratch Massive never do what is expected of them, and nobody’s complaining! It was already the case in 2003 with “Enemy & Lovers”, the LP that marked their birth and showcased electric guitars as well as a decidedly rock style at a time when electronic music was all the rage. In 2007, once the return of rock was acknowledged by all, the duo ventured off towards new horizons with “Time”. A second LP for which they had summoned the God of techno, Germany’s Moritz Von Oswald, for a fearless free dive into ten years of techno fascination, ecstatic dancefloors and the smell of sweat mingled with various party-fuelling substances.
Still set in their expectation-defying ways, this time around Scratch Massive have delved into the past and “Nuit De Rêve” (Dream Night), their new album, is like travelling back in time to the 84-86 era, right at the pounding heart of new wave. It was then that this seminal eighties’ musical genre, risen from the ashes of punk anarchy, marked the beginning of the democratisation and popularity of synthesisers, laying the foundations of future pop music as we know it today. Although the album title -”Nuit de Rêve”, or “dream night” – is evocative of the naïvely optimistic poetry that new wave resorted to more often than not, the essential components of that age, Melancholy and Gloom, are very present. As though the players in that key musical movement had already stopped believing in promises of a bright future.
“Nuit de Rêve” opens sumptuously, amidst grave and icy synth washes that sound like the soundtrack to a John Carpenter film. The tone is set: this album will unfold like the score of an imaginary film. It kicks off with Koudlam, the maverick of electronic music, lending his voice to the raw and techno “Waiting for a Sign“, an uncompromising club track where the ‘Scratch Massive touch’ is revealed and works wonders. “Take Me There” features the pure eighties’ icon that is Jimmy Sommerville, who takes us on a long and lingering tracking shot that sees him, cleverly, draw more inspiration from the Communards than Bronski Beat. “Break Away”, with its naïve, alluring and therefore A-ha-esque electro loop, channels the most trivial and superficial side of the 80s, just before the sublime voice of Daniel Agust (from Gus Gus) comes in, making a lasting impression on “Paris”, a slow and luminous track that will send chills down your spine. “Golden Dreams” continues on in this dark odyssey, as we witness what could best be described as an imaginary discussion between Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis; and then sepulchral track”Closer” – featuring Chloé – takes us on a sleepwalking stroll around immoral dreams.
Cut to the next scene. “Nuit De Mes Rêves”, with its faux-naïve lyrics declaimed in French, feels like a breath of fresh and fragrant air, before this enchanted atmosphere comes crashing down with the two album closers, “Follow Me ” and “Secrets”. These, echoing the album opener, lure us back to pounding beats, icy synth washes and sepulchral harmonies. The Grand Finale.
The strength of Scratch Massive lies in the fact that they have dived headfirst into the past while keeping their feet firmly grounded in the present. And they have also managed to avoid the pitfalls usually involved in this type of endeavour. “Nuit De Rêve” is neither an ‘à la’ record, nor the watered-down facsimiles produced in large amounts by the recent fascination for the eighties. It is simply a melancholic album in the noblest sense of the word, which stems more from nostalgia for a state of mind than for an era in which experimentation and the first synthesisers changed the concept of pop forever. The perfect record for our times then: a terribly 2011 album that takes place in the 80s!