After a five year hiatus, French psychedelic pop musician Melody Prochet has returned with Bon Voyage. Unlike her previous self-titled album, Bon Voyage is notably minus Kevin Parker of Tame Impala fame. Instead, Melody has taken the reins and is credited with production. The hiatus, paired with the different producers, certainly shows its effects on the record, mostly for the positive: Melody flexes her songwriting ability in a form unabridged by an insistence on drowning it all out with various effects.
Unfortunately, the album also seems to lack a sense of clear direction; most songs dance around from idea to idea, with little to no transitional period. Perhaps the most clear example of this is the track Desert Horse, which constantly jumps around without ever getting a second to put its feet on the ground. This results in a “cobbled together” effect that works in some areas but falls terribly short in others.
Cross My Heart, the opening track of the album, features the trademark multi-layered vocals and harmonies of Melody that evoke a sense of both wistfulness and beauty. The incorporation of a smorgasbord of instrumentation reminds me greatly of an act like The Go! Team; the woodwinds and stringed instruments accompany the rest of the recording perfectly. Cross My Heart features a hip hop-themed break down as well, another aspect that reminds me of The Go! Team. This start left me feeling enchanted, an effect I’m certain that Melody was trying to make come across – as she mentions being enchanted several times in French.
Breathe In, Breathe Out presents several moments where Melody cuts out the noise familiar in most of her tracks and instead features songwriting brilliance. “I just found I can’t breathe,” Melody reveals as a light pairing of instruments sputter on behind her. Moving is one way to describe this track. Similarly, Var Har Du Vart?, Swedish for “Where have you been,” is mostly just stripped down to guitar and voices. Both reference the concept of telling oneself to control their breathing, an act in which such self control is reflected in the composition of the piece.
Not all instrumental and production changes for Melody were for the best. Notably, the track Desert Horse features a multitude of autotune frills that are mostly unpleasant. Shirim, the closing track of the album, while a favorite of mine at first, soon lost its sheen as I realized how simple and humdrum the dance beat was. However, most of the additions that Melody has made to her arsenal were deeply interesting and showed an increased scope of realization of music: this album is colorfully painted with the influences of tropicália from front to back. Tropicália was a ’60s Brazilian psychedelic art movement which merged Brazilian and African influences with rock and roll, and it is pretty clear that Melody has become absolutely infatuated with it.
Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige – “When Tears Of An Angel Make Dancing Snow” – was easily the best part of the album for me. It starts with a return to form of old Melody’s Echo Chamber, and is mostly just pleasant for the start of the run time – then is interrupted with a puzzling sample. The song then screams into a section with stunning guitar and countless drum fills that whisked me into a state of floating. In a similar way, Visions of Someone Special, On A Wall Of Reflections features a dazzling guitar line and production that is pure genius. Thunderous bass constantly drags you back down into reality from the trance that Melody has thrown you in.
Mystifying, genius, and a bit all over the place at times, Bon Voyage is a deep journey into psychedelia that will transport you to another plane. While certainly not short of imperfections, and in some areas in need of some snipping, Melody’s Echo Chamber has delivered her most evocative album yet.
high points: quand les larmes d’un ange font danser la neige, visions of someone special, breathe in breathe out
low point: desert horse