Melody Gives Us a Bisou Magique

I had the privilege of catching Melody’s Echo Chamber at Venue Nightclub last month during their first North American tour, opening for The Raveonettes. I was at this show because of The Raveonettes; that’s certainly not to say that I disliked Melody’s at all – I was barely familiar with their music. In any case, I managed to catch both sets despite my lazy, bored Sunday mood, and I’m glad I did. Like The Raveonettes, Melody’s Echo Chamber has become another one of my personal music discoveries of 2012. Had I not fell upon The Raveonettes and soaked in their sound, I likely would have not have made it to the show and found the sweet, spacey little gem that is Parisian export Melody Prochet.

The group’s self-titled debut kicks off with “I Follow You”, a coy, fuzzed out, lovely little ditty that could easily be a reworking of an old ‘60s girl-group tune. The song’s simplistic sound betrays the careful musical balance that makes it all work – the crisp verse guitar-picking; the lazy jangle of the chorus guitar; the travelling, quirky bass line; Melody’s satin-soft, echo-y voice; the teenaged, basement improv guitar solo; all tied together with simple drums that need no bells or whistles. It’s one of those songs that works best if you don’t try to dissect it. Just listen to it and sway away.

While Prochet’s kissable voice is front and centre throughout the whole of the album – and for good reason – it’s the base upon which her voice is set that changes. The second song, “Crystallized”, moves away from the retro sound of the intro track, instead opting for a freer, more adventurous and thoroughly modern approach. The distorted percussion is sharper and rebellious, as the bass line loops on and on, making for a four-minute track that, live, could easily be stretched to double its length thanks to its bare, malleable structure.

“Bisou Magique” and “Quand Vas Tu Rentrer” serve as a soft reminder of where Melody’s Echo Chamber hail from. While the former falls in the same modern dream-pop category as “Crystallized”, “Quand Vas Tu Rentrer” – what with its carnival-esque, starry-eyed keyboard and doo-bee-doo-bee-doo-inducing melody-go-round – is another thing entirely. It stands out like that weird, enigmatic, dizzyingly cute doe-eyed girl you never brought yourself to talk to in high school. There is a fantastic, unreal quality at work here that makes you keep coming back to it/her.

There are familiar bits in this debut – a reigned-in Sonic Youth forced to work within feather-padded constraints; The Dears on downers, clearly still enjoying themselves but way too mellow to freak out and scream, man;  the confident, unhurried pace of Spiritualized; My Bloody Valentine without the morphine haze; even slivers of Radiohead’s not-quite-rock, not-quite-insane moments of experimentation. That said, the album is not a mishmash of borrowed elements, and therein lies its greatest strength – regardless of its musical inspirations, there is a remarkably consistent, original sound present throughout that is never shattered.

With their first full-length, Melody’s Echo Chamber have managed to set themselves apart with pastel-coloured chalk in a dream-pop playground that is quickly becoming saturated with wannabes and sound-alikes. Maybe it’s the production, maybe it’s the song-writing, who knows – maybe it’s a French thing. Whatever it is… c’est tout à fait formidable.