Gaëtan Roussel ‘Trafic’ LP/CD (Barclay France/Blue Wrasse) 3/5

If the name is unfamiliar to British and American ears, then in France, Gaëtan Roussel is something of a household name as the leader of Louise Attaque and Tarmac, both of which he co-founded. They were in fact key new wave bands of the 1990s, but Rousel departed to start his own solo career by the very end of the noughties. He recorded a first album in 2010, ‘Ginger’, which was a qualified success at the time, but gained useful experience collaborating with veteran French rocker, the late Alain Bashung, and duetting among others with the sadly departed Rachid Taha and Vanessa Paradis. Roussel possesses a naturally gravelly voice which will not be to the liking of all, and a second, higher pitched delivery, both of which this writer struggled to appreciate. The new album, produced by Tom Goldsworthy of the DFA label, has the emphasis firmly placed on a contemporary dance floor vibe and that means a healthy dose of electronica and even dub influences side by side with uptempo rock and pop accompaniment. That alternative dance influence has been there from the very beginnings of his solo career since the debut album featured the presence of Renee Scroggins, who was an integral part of the New York cult group, ESG. The device of acoustic guitar and hand claps is repeatedly deployed, and exemplified here on, ‘J’entends des voix’, while a joint duo with Vanessa Paradis on, ‘Tu me manques’, should ensure a pop chart entry in France at least. For some much needed variety, the uptempo groove that permeates the album is temporarily abandoned on the pared down piano and vocal pairing of, ‘Je veux bien, je ne sais pas’.

Tim Stenhouse