Mapping the dancefloor with COUCOU CHLOE

Having spent years reconfiguring the beating heart of grimy club music, the French artist is showing her yearning for a new dawn with her latest project, FEVER DREAM.
  • PhotographerLewis Vorn
  • WriterBailey Slater

COUCOU CHLOE’s latest project begins where most, if not all, good tunes are conceived: writhing under the glaring strobes of the dancefloor. Known for her grimy blend of blistering, hypnotic and fully uninhibited club bangers, the French producer and DJ found herself at a pivotal moment when she embarked on her latest full-length release, FEVER DREAM, back in 2022. The dilemma proposed two alternatives for her artistry: delve further into the environs of the sonic capability that propelled her to underground fame? Or do something far more challenging and unexpected, and be real with her listeners? Approaching the project’s debut single, “DRIFT”, in her typically disaffected style, Chloe figured both could be possible.

“Ten in the morning and I don’t really care/ […] I could, but I don’t,” recites the singer over mutilated sirens and jolting beats, as if picking petals from a dead rose. Singing of complicated love, Chloe constructs a world both cavernous and placid, her internal monologue unfurling across shaking bass lines, harbouring doom and faltering self-love in equal measure. “I feel like it was a perfect gateway to what was coming next, you know?” she says excitedly over the phone. “I wanted to show a bit of continuity in that club sound… And where it could lead.”

Chloe wears bra and short's stylist's own, earrings Chloe's own, sleeve by NASIR MAZHAR, ring by CC-STEDING, vintage boxing gloves, and boots by UNTITLAB.

Of course, from disco through to trance and dubstep, the dancefloor has long played host to raw expressions of romance, no matter how addictive or punishing. But Chloe’s work exists in a more shadowy territory altogether, a sweet spot between sanctuary and clubland. She trades not in lively house vocals or acid-drenched synths, but in classic, driving rhythms and murky soundscapes that yearn for embrace despite their sinister inflections.

Born Chloe Erika Jane, the artist grew up in a village in the south of France that couldn’t feel further away from anything thrilling to a precocious, creative kid. “Everything was quite calm and pretty isolated,” she recalls, remembering how she would crave the hustle and bustle of city life. Signs of the artist’s curious approach to sound started looming in childhood when, as a young girl, Chloe would sync unique samples of collected sounds that she’d gathered and play them on her keyboard. She took up piano at the age of four and, in her late teens, without any certainty as to where it might take her, enrolled at Nice’s elite contemporary art school, Villa Arson.

As it turns out, Nice wasn’t quite the sprawling metropolis she had in mind, nor were Villa Arson’s classes on contemporary art scratching her itch to create. So, COUCOU CHLOE (still known to the world then just as Chloe) packed her bags and headed across the English Channel to join a close friend in London, where she still finds herself, eight years on. While immersing herself in the UK capital’s vibrant underground club scene, in particular the debauched and sweat-dripping functions held by the likes of Bala Club and PDA, Chloe began toying with bootleg production software given to her by her brother. Then, in 2016, the budding producer released her thud-heavy debut EP, HALO, on Berlin’s Creamcake label, and began fostering a creative partnership with her former e-pen pal Salvador Navarrete (Sega Bodega) and his keen musical collaborator Blane Muise (Shygirl).

Chloe wears vest by DION LEE, trousers by GMBH, necklaces and ring by CC-STEDING and gloves stylist’s own.

The trio would go on to establish NUXXE (pronounced nukes-ee), a collective-cum-independent label that would not only house their many left-of-field sonic experiments, including Chloe and Sega Bodega’s short-lived alias Y1640, but also turn the artists into bonafide stars in their own right. As the scene around them began to sprawl with the proliferation of labels such as PC Music and LuckyMe, which gave audiences a constant fix of new and high-octane sounds, NUXXE set itself apart by cutting hard and unusual samples. From hysteric squeals and dog barks to chesty coughs, they drove unrelenting beats to their extremes and stamped a nightmarishly gritty fingerprint on whatever remained – dubbed “deconstructed club” by some, also known as “post-club”.

“I find the [terms] a bit outdated and annoying,” the singer says. “I can understand why it was called that at the time, because it didn’t follow traditional club music patterns. But since first being introduced [at Hood By Air designer Shayne Oliver and Venus X’s cult New York club night GHE20G0TH1K in the early 2010s] it has evolved so much.”

Part of this evolution involves the mixing and melding of totally disparate sonic worlds, the dissolution of rigid genre rules. And though Chloe was drawn into the mix through her “attraction to bass, and the simplicity you can find in electronic music”, being at the forefront of this new sonic avant-garde was never necessarily the goal. “I’ve never really related to the universe around [dance music], or the places where it was being played out,” she says. Indeed, her club-leaning sound, which can flit from UK bass to industrial hip-hop in the blink of an eye, speaks to an unquenchable need for experimentation, rather than any burning desire to reconfigure the sound of an entire genre.

Jewellery Chloe's own.

The artist’s many influences for FEVER DREAM stretch far beyond the realm of dance. A cursory scroll through her Spotify library will likely lead you careening from the brash noise rock of Sonic Youth and Yves Tumor to the pioneering drill of Chief Keef or stirring witch house efforts by XXYYXX, than, say, to a skeletal take on a classic UKG floor-filler. Such misconceptions constitute a wider theme within FEVER DREAM. “What do I reflect? How do others see me?” the singer asks, taking herself to task in the project’s hand-drawn artwork. Armed with a caricaturist’s pencil, Chloe sketches a twisted self- portrait with big brains, eyes locked in a perpetual rolling state and rounds it off with a fierce snarl to match.

Citing FEVER DREAM as the widest palette she’s worked on to date, the artist is relishing being finally able to give space to life’s conflicting states of emotion after five throbbingly murky EPs. From impulsivity and defiance to lust and even misjudgments of the self, it’s an exploration that, through her reluctance to detail explicitly, Chloe hopes will speak for itself. “I was able to process more experiences that I will say I’m happy to leave in the past. They still resonate with me to this day,” she says of the countless demo tests and isolated recording sessions it took to get here, “but they’re released.”

Work for the project unofficially dates back to Chloe’s bolshy 2019 EP, Naughty Dog. “SILVER A (TITN Part 2)” was pulled from the ranks last minute as it was not quite as preened to lyrical perfection as the artist had in mind. The disorientating trap ballad finds new life on FEVER DREAM, alongside the work of innovative spitters like Matt Ox, 6454R and NENE, and hypnotic pulse-raisers like “POKERFACE”. On that track, beside a couple of stripped, swooping synths, Chloe’s vocals aren’t sung but whispered into the ear like a secret, forging an intimate connection that speaks to the album’s breaking down of artifice, a melding of vulnerability and excitement that refuses to be brought down.

Chloe wears jacket by AV VATTEV, vest by HELMUT LANG and shorts stylist’s own.

Whatever barriers the singer had previously erected found themselves broken down entirely on “NEVER”, the project’s final emotional gut punch. Made with the Stockholm-born producer Woesum (Yung Lean, Namasenda), the track is a complete change of pace and slows the record to a melodic halt while dealing solely in the harrowing beauty of grief. It’s the artist at her best and most otherworldly, consoling an unnamed apparition – “Give me your hand and you’ll feel me / You’ll never be alone (because I’m still here with you)” – while realising it might be time to let go.

It’s more than four months post-release when we speak, and Chloe’s main focus is now translating these experiences into her live show. Amid a global tour spanning Bristol to Bangkok, she’s showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. “I’m inspired all the time by new energies and new things around me. Whenever I’m touring, that’s also the occasion for me to make this music,” she says. “Whenever I get to play live, it just feels like a real exchange that I get to have with the people who listen.”

The artist still finds herself in disbelief that this is her journey. But as with most of life’s twisted caveats, taking stock is futile, the next hurdle is already fast approaching. “Right now I just see myself experimenting in a lot of different ways, more mediums,” she offers vaguely of any plans of a follow-up effort. “I guess that’s it. And that’s a beautiful thing.”

Chloe wears jacket by PETER DO, shirt and tie stylist’s own and glasses by GUCCI.
  • StylistMatt King
  • Art DirectorKat Beckwith
  • Editorial LeadNessa Humayun
  • Make-up ArtistRosie McGinn
  • Hair StylistReiss Alexander
  • Photography AssistantChelsea Nawanga
  • Styling AssistantFraser Kenneth
  • ProducerKay Riley
  • Producer Nessa Humayun
  • Production AssistantAbby Rothwell