MELODY'S ECHO CHAMBER

 

“I was on a kind of pilgrimage trying to find an environment of gracefulness, gentleness and enchantment to release my creativity. I fought a couple of monsters and met some enchanted creatures along the way...”

Melody’s Echo Chamber’s second album finally arrives more than five years after Melody Prochet’s debut, and it’s certainly been worth the wait. Bon Voyage is a mind-blowing mini-opus full to the gunwales with surprises. It’s a capricious trip that builds majestically upon what Pitchfork in 2012 called “enchanting, psychedelic-tinged pop with just the right amount of thematic darkness”. Made up of seven expansive new tracks, it marries Melody’s breathless soprano to the wildest sonic excursions, always pinned to an emphatic, clattering groove.

It’s a musical journey of discovery that delves deep into the collective musical psyche of Melody and her Swedish fellow travellers, who she met one serendipitous summer’s afternoon at the Levitation festival in Angers back in 2015. Prochet describes the members of Stockholm’s premier neo-psychedelic overlords Dungen as “soulmates and extreme beings, uncompromisingly intense and sensitive.” These kindred souls daydreamed about making music together, and then Prochet took matters into her own hands and moved to Sweden in the winter of 2016. And so began an adventure that would last around a year and a half in total (she’s unsure of the exact duration, saying “I lost track of time”). Sessions in the basement of an enchanted forest with a core team of her, Fredrik Swahn of The Amazing and Reine Fiske of Dungen, produced an explosion of creativity.

“We called ourselves the Bermuda Triangle because together we just get lost in music. It was an epiphany for all of us. Also it was good to bond with men who respect women equally and who trusted my talent and sensibility. I think it helped restore my self-confidence as a musician.” Helming the production of the record with Swahn and Fiske, Melody took control and encouraged the players around her to experiment, often with instruments that might be less familiar to them, as well as enmeshing touring musician friends like Nicholas Allbrook from Pond, who dropped an impromptu rhythmic cypher on ‘Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige’; his strong Perth burr an evocative echo from the not-so-distant past. As for working in the woods in Solna, Melody says: “Swedish nature helped me to breathe and soothed me in times of anxiety. I had a majestic forest with a lake three minutes walk from my home. I would go pick berries in the summer and go for walks when it snowed, meeting a couple of beautiful deer each time.”

There’d been attempts to record a follow-up to her lauded debut. A mooted second album with Kevin Parker lay incomplete, and Melody spent two years enduring the painful process of trying to finish it before admitting it “wasn’t to be”. Some of those tracks surfaced on the internet only EP ‘From Pink They Fell Into Blue’ in 2016, but by then she’d moved on both creatively and spiritually. “I'm not sure where I was,” she says when asked about her whereabouts over the last five years. An accident held back progress and may well be one of those metaphorical monsters she came up against in her time away. Melody also went back to her childhood music conservatory to learn drums aged 30, and on arriving in Sweden she picked up Swahn's mother’s three-stringed Swedish folk violin and began relearning an instrument from her childhood: “Recording sessions were a break in our lives, an escape from our frustrations as young adults, parents, musicians and embittered life jugglers. What transpired was a kind of modern fairytale full of duality: beautiful and disenchanted, happy and painful, internal and external, childish and mature, but also violent and measured. We had no structure and no limits and we stepped out of our comfort zones.”

Melody introduced her new friends to Broadcast and Stereolab; they in turn played her Özdemir Erdoğan, Léonie, Robert Lelièvre, Rotary Connection and Susan Christie. A shared love of Can, Neu, Wendy & Bonnie, Selda Bağcan, Flaming Lips, D'Angelo, Shuggie Otis and Milton Nascimento also informed sessions. What gradually emerged is the most immersive record of her life, infused with the ghosts of electronic pioneers, atavistic European folk singers and sonic voyagers like Alice Coltrane. Meanwhile the title of the record - Bon Voyage - came from the literal French translation of 'Lycklig Resa', a classic Swedish jazz record Melody remembers “listening to when it was -20 degrees outside and we were in a little red wooden house drinking klögg.” 

Opener ‘Cross My Heart’ is stylistically the most recognisable track on the record, at least until an old skool hip hop breakdown midway through seems to bifurcate the old Melody from the new Melody. From then on in it’s an odyssey of aural iridescence where anything can happen and it usually does. At Melody’s behest, Dungen leader Gustav Ejstes brought some turntables into the studio to experiment on ‘Cross My Heart’, and he used them again on perhaps the wildest track of all, ‘Desert Horse’, a lysergic sound event that’s sparse one moment and frantic the next, juxtaposing backward looping and vocoders with acoustic instrumentation and arabesque ululations. It must be heard to be believed! “This track was a monster,” says Melody. “It's the most sculptural and mad I guess, with no real common format. It embodies my difficult life journey these last few years through my own personal desert of heartaches, thirst, mirages, moving sands, disillusionment and of becoming an adult woman in a mad world. It's a little punk to me somehow.”

Elsewhere ‘Visions of Someone Special, On a Wall of Reflections’ pays cheeky homage to Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Ford Mustang’ thanks to a happy accident between Melody and a Rickenbacker, and ‘Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige’ features some of the finest interlocking drum and bass synergy you’re likely to hear all year, performed by Johan Holmegard and Reine Fiske. In contrast, ‘Var Har Du Vart’ is a lo-fi folk song written by Ejstes in Swedish that Melody learnt verbatim and included as a surprise for her friend. If this record is a melange of contemporary influences then the hidden key is much older. “I learnt so much from Ravel’s Boléro,” says Melody. “You keep listening and you think that it's the same phrase being played over and over, but you're never bored because each time there are a few subtle differences in the orchestration that somehow trick your mind. I love that idea.” Bon Voyage is the soundtrack to a trip back from the brink, the sound of spiritual renewal, and a pilgrimage to the sonic outer limits. Oh come, all ye faithful.