Echo Chamber

Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage (Domino)

Melody’s Echo Chamber’s self-titled album was one of 2012’s most charming releases. Melody Prochet’s elegant melodies were enhanced by Kevin Parker’s scuzzy production. The heavy influence of the genius group, Broadcast didn’t hurt either.

After working on a follow-up (including a scrapped first attempt), in 2017 Prochet suffered a serious accident which halted a tour and the imminent album release. Thankfully, a year later, she’s made a great recovery and returns with Bon Voyage. This album is much more experimental than the debut, and it’s full of intrigue. It’s quite simply a masterpiece.

The opening strums and romantic strings of ‘Cross My Heart’ suggest a more organic approach to the instrumentation than the debut. It begins as a callback to the wistful hippy sounds of cult 60s albums by Wendy & Bonnie and Margo Guryan. The organic nature only stretches to certain aspects of this incredible opener. Just when you think it’s going to be a simple pop song, it bursts into a giddy beatboxing breakdown with a funky bassline, layered vocals and a dazzling mix of percussion. It’s part Saint Etienne and part Avalanches. The song twists and turns over seven minutes, achieving the jazzy electronics of Stereolab. It’s an opener that’s so startling in its ambition and execution that you wonder what could possibly come next.

The formless song structures and textured soundscapes continue on ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out’. It deals with her self doubts and depression. It’s closer in spirit to the debut, as the guitars have the same crunch. An addictive whistling hook introduces the song, and then Prochet abruptly switches gear and nonchalantly sings, “God, it’s been so long, there must be some kind of light to come”. Suddenly the song bursts back into life with a catchy riff and vocals bouncing all over. She plays with and chops up vocals (her own and others) similar to the way Bjork and Robert Wyatt did, and she achieves similarly disorienting and captivating results.

Desert Horse’ floats through several passages that go between woozy uneasiness and warm lush sonics. She repeats, “so much blood on my hands” as she’s joined by a creepy computerised voice. It goes full-on prog in the middle section before another gorgeous melody drives the song’s conclusion. Despite Prochet referring to the personal issues that fueled this album, there’s a sense of her living in some kind of fantasy — from the loose adventurous spirit of the music to the artwork and the bizarre cartoon-themed videos. It’s a testament to her gift that her spontaneous approach gives such immersive and coherent results. The straightforward acoustic campfire sing-a-long ‘Var Har Du Vart’ is the one exception to this bold approach. It acts as a brief, perfectly-sequenced interlude to take in the wealth of ideas.

On her debut, ‘Crystallized’ and ‘Bisou Magique’ stayed in their groove using flourishes of keyboards to build atmosphere. She’s taken the opposite approach on the stunning ‘Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige’. Prochet’s breathless vocal as she sings, “don’t think of it like that, just feel it with your heart’ is reminiscent of Annie’s masterful ‘Heartbeat’. The airy guitars and clattering percussion briefly give way to a hypnotic electronic segment — another breathtaking excursion. The production — courtesy of Reine Fiske and Fredrik Swahn — complements Prochet’s expansive vision.

The wandering bass and jagged guitars in ‘Visions Of Someone Special, On A Wall Of Reflections’ are indebted to Serge Gainsbourg. ‘Shirin’ makes a welcome return as the closer. It has some of her most direct lyrics, “I hope you don’t get close, promise it would hurt me more than you know”. It fits neatly with the trippy neo-psych that ties the album together, especially with the hint of funk and guitar freak-out closing.

The album is brief (34 minutes), and leaves you wanting more. There’s so much startling creativity on every second of this record. She’s taken the dream-pop of her debut and turned it upside down. Her progression leads her to new territories of avant-garde pop. She glides through  an amalgamation of rich and varied influences and sounds, taking the listener on a personal and exhilarating journey. She’s allowed herself to follow every impulse, creating tension and beauty often within the same song. It’s challenging, at times surreal, and most importantly, it’s absolutely perfect.

 

  1. It sounds like it might be one of the greatest albums of all time. I want! Still listen to the first one a lot. Nice review.

  2. Thanks! It does feel like a very special record. I loved the debut, but I think this one is in a different league. Interested to know your thoughts on it.

  3. Massive disappointment after the first album for me. Sounds half-arsed throughout, and Desert Horse is the most irritating thing I’ve heard all year. Real shame as I loved the first one.

  4. That’s a shame you didn’t like it Tim. I’m surprised to see you describe it as half-arsed. To me it sounds like she spent lots of time on it, as the songs are filled with so many ideas and details that make it a really thrilling listen. I’m obsessed with the whole thing, even Desert Horse. As for it being the most irritating thing you’ve heard all year, I’m just envious you’ve avoided hearing anything from the new Father John Misty snooze-fest!

  5. I would call it impossibly intricate and lush personally and constantly surprising. Half arsed it isn’t. I presume Tim listened to Desert Horse, didn’t like it then didn’t bother with the rest?

  6. No I’ve listened to the whole thing a couple of times as I loved the first album – just sounds very unfocused to me. Ah well.

  7. Great review and it’s a great album – a massive leap forward from her debut. I love the constant shifts, twists and turns of it. Production-wise it sounds like she’s trying (and succeeding) in going one-louder than Tame Impala, Pond etc. Chock full of ideas, with lots of gear changes. The overall sound of it reminds me of the Amorphous Androgynous. I concur with the other influences mentioned here too and would add Gwenno to the list. But that’s not to say it’s unoriginal or lacking focus. It touches on various strands of contemporary psych and knits them all together very well.

  8. Thanks Gary. Glad you’re enjoying the album too. Gwenno is a good call. Her two solo albums have been so good and definitely have some of the same influences as Melody (Broadcast are one of my favourite bands ever and I’m all for artists approaching their style). I think Rose Elinor Dougal has matched Gwenno with her recent releases as well.

  9. ‘The wandering bass and jagged guitars in ‘Visions Of Someone Special, On A Wall Of Reflections’ are indebted to Serge Gainsbourg.’
    Er, just a bit. Completely, overtly ripped from ‘Ford Mustang’. Not far off sounding like a sample.

    Good record though, follows its nose and wanders groovily all over the place. ‘Desert Horse’ does indulge itself too much, mind.

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