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Melody's Echo Chamber
Melody's Echo Chamber John Freeman , November 5th, 2012 08:58

There was a time when being a multi-instrumentalist was a special skill set, honed only by the finest of musicians. That a 17-year-old Prince produced, arranged, composed and played all 27 instruments on his 1978 debut album used to be considered quite a feat. Nowadays, he'd be considered within the norm (“just the 27 instruments, you say?”), as each new month spews another slew of offerings from multi-instrumentalists with capacious bedrooms and well-thumbed copies of 'GarageBand For Dummies'.

  Today's musical multi-tasker is Melody Prochet. She is based in Paris, which at least is not Oxford, Dalston or Williamsburg, and has released a debut album for her project (a term which still induces a Pavlovian bout of gastro-oesophageal reflux), Melody's Echo Chamber. That Prochet is peddling her brand of Kraut-rock-dream-pop-electronica isn't exactly a Unique Selling Point in 2012. However - thankfully, joyously - Melody's Echo Chamber is an utterly marvellous listen. Prochet has blended a myriad of sounds, without ever getting engulfed by navel-gazing or disappearing up her own derriere. Melody's Echo Chamber is replete with memorable tunes - fully-realised songs - which anchor Prochet's inquisitive ear and desire to experiment.

And she certainly knows how to make a first impression. Quite simply, lead single 'I Follow You' is a magnificent way to open any album. Over velveteen guitars, a delicious hook is lifted by Prochet's luminous vocals before a rush and a push of feedback pushes the song into a delirious finale (the guitar solo could have been played by J Mascis). It's a track that could have been released by 4AD in 1989. It sounds like Lush. Actually, it doesn't sound like Lush, it sounds like my rose-tinted memory of what Lush could have sounded like if they'd possessed a dab of Prochet's vision.

That's not saying 'I Will Follow' results in Melody's Echo Chamber showing its hand too early - the record is a consistent beast with Prochet's quality control permanently set to 'high'. 'Crystallized' is a beaut - a chiming guitar and a far-off vocal evoking the memory of AC Marias before the track wanders off into a splurge of sticky reverb. Even better is 'Endless Shore', with its almost Eastern phrasing, pulsing synth line and dappled riffs.

Intriguingly, Melody's Echo Chamber was created in two distinct phases, 8,500 miles apart. Prochet recorded the music in the Western Australian city of Perth with Tame Impala's Kevin Parker. The pair had met when Prochet saw Tame Impala play in Paris, and chased Parker to the aftershow party at her friend's bar. Prochet, a student of classical music and trained viola player, had previously felt “restrained” by her formal music education and Parker's unconventional approach provided the perfect playground for experimentation and making music by instinct and gut-feel. The results are genuinely thrilling - Melody's Echo Chamber is beautifully balanced, combining Prochet's deft arrangements to a hypnotic smorgasbord of sonic textures. Motorik beats, space-pop and surges of electronica are used with the touch of a master craftsperson.  

The second phase of Melody's Echo Chamber was recorded in Cavalière on France's Côte D'Azur, where Prochet assumed squatter's rights to her grandparent's beach house. There, amid an oasis of tranquillity, she nailed down the album's vocals. Try googling Cavalière. It looks astonishing. No wonder Melody's dreamy vocals soar with intrigue. Magical things happen in magical places.

  Lyrically, much of Melody's Echo Chamber is largely camped in the vocal-low-in-the-mix to fully explore Prochet's soul-searching. The album is the first time she has sung in English and gorgeous, woozy pop of 'You Won't Be Missing That Part Of Me' is perhaps the most transparent example of Prochet's subtle take on heartache. Two songs are sung in her native tongue - 'Bisou Magique' ('Magic Kiss') is a smoky Serge Gainsbourg slice of seduction, while the ghostly 'Quand Vas Tu Rentrer?' ('When Will You Return?') is underpinned by a gentle Hammond organ refrain.  

  Perhaps the album's most extraordinary track is 'Snowcapped Andes Crash, which starts as a floating wisp of plinking electronica before descending halfway through its five minutes into a carnage of juddering guitar effects and pulsing loops - as if the song had smashed itself into a musical mountainside. It's both progressive and mildly shocking and indicative of Prochet's skill at marrying invention to an intriguing song.

  Melody's Echo Chamber is a glorious album. Its success lies in the balance between Prochet's ability to break out of the (supposed) shackles of her structured classical composition education, while still delivering a suite of songs that are coherent, eminently listenable and blend lightness with dark foreboding. It doesn't matter how many instruments a musician can play, or how many genres they are intent of merging, a record still needs some tunes. Melody Prochet has attained a perfect equilibrium. 

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