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MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER Bon Voyage gets 8/10


Melody’s Echo Chamber
Bon Voyage
Inertia Records

8/10

Released in 2012, the self-titled debut album by Melody’s Echo Chamber was one of the musical highlights from early in the decade.  Half-recorded here in Perth and produced by Kevin Parker, the album was a sparkling collage of luminescent, hazy psych-pop based around the breathy vocals and airy songwriting of Melody Prochet, who had met Parker after a Tame Impala concert in her native Paris the previous year. After the creative partnership between the two dissolved, the question was obvious: brilliant debut, sure – but what next?

After half a decade of scrapped material with Parker and some serious personal health issues, Prochet has finally returned with the follow up. Recorded in a basement underneath a secluded Swedish forest, Bon Voyage is largely the result of a collaboration with a group of  Scandinavian prog-rock musicians (members of bands Dungen and The Amazing) chosen to help realise her expanding musical vision. While Nick Allbrook from Pond also appears on at least one track, this is clearly an attempt to move on from the past.

At just 33 minutes long, it’s a hugely ambitious album that almost tries to pack too much creativity into too limited a space.  At first it seems like too many ideas are sewn together and often the songs don’t get enough room to breathe naturally. Opener Cross My Heart starts off with dreamy, pastoral chords before disappearing into a wormhole of extended flute solos over jumpy electronic beats and eerie string-section flourishes.  Later on in the first half we get Eastern-tinged wig-out guitar solos, spoken word fragments and even occasional Yoko Ono style screaming. For a while, it all gets close to being an unholy, chaotic mess.

After a cleansing acoustic interlude with Var Har Du Vart? things manage to get back on course with the gorgeous album centrepiece Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige. It’s a fantastic track which sounds like the 21st century child offspring of Syd Barrett and Jane Birkin travelling on a magic carpet towards a glowing Martian landscape at the edge of your consciousness. The next track playfully expands upon the famous Serge Gainsbourg piano motif from 1968 song Initials BB before things conclude gracefully with 2014 single Shirim which stakes out more familiar electro-pop territory: a joyous bass-driven stomp across a futuristic European dancefloor. Yes, an actual pop song with cute harmonies and a fun chorus.

Ultimately, it’s a hell of a lot of ground to cover in just over half an hour and while it doesn’t always hang together there’s an obvious spark of creative renewal and momentum here. Bon Voyage will doubtless turn up in a lot of end-of-year lists but it just falls short of being as great as it obviously wants to be.  At the same time you can’t help wondering what the future has in store for Melody Prochet. She is clearly a serious talent who is going to be around for a while and you sense that it could all go either way. Where will she go from here? What will she do next? Viewers, place your bets.

GORDON JONES

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