Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage

Melody Prochet first came to note with her extraordinary self-titled debut album. While not quite a full-on acid trip, its marriage of psychedelia, dream pop and art, was a multi-layered confection of effects delivered through dark reminiscences of heartbreak, and produced by psychedelic guru Kevin Parker, of Tame Impala fame.

It’s been six years, but finally Prochet has come up with album number two, a gap explained by the ditching of two years of work with ex-partner Parker, and a serious physical injury last year that halted its initial planned release. Made up of just seven tracks, Bon Voyage is a collaboration between Prochet, Dungen’s Reine Fiske and The Amazing’s Fredrik Swahn, with Melody in charge of the sessions, utilising her wispy soprano against some serious out-there sonic adventures played by a group of players apparently encouraged to experiment. Swedish neo-psychedelic lords Dungen provide further guests in the form of Gustav Ejstes and Johan Holmegaard, along with Pond’s Nicholas Allbrook.

Working in the Swedish woods of 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 minute’s walk from my home. 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.”

Bon Voyage is, at heart, a quest for spiritual and emotional healing. “This is the promise to my heart, I can’t keep falling from so high,” sings Prochet at the beginning of the extraordinary musical adventure that is ‘Cross My Heart’. A seven-minute multi-part opus that is, at various times, reminiscent of The Zombies’ 60s beat, sung in English, a psych-heavy future-soul passage, sung in French, a contemplative movement with some flute action, and buzzed out guitar laying on the thick rock. It goes everywhere, and ultimately nowhere; a journey of sorts into the hinterlands of music exotica, before fading out rather tamely. Mad.

This is the template for much of Bon Voyage, a pot pourri of ideas and parts, taped to each other in random, experimental fashion. Such as album highlight ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out’, the closest we get to an orthodox pop song; beginning with a guitar-heavy melody, with Prochet on drums, before it handbrake turns, faces the other direction, and takes off in the blink of an eye, the lyrics mimicking the music: “I just found I can’t breathe / Like they say, like a song / I just found I can’t breathe / Like they say, going somewhere“.

The maddest track of them all, ‘Desert Horse’, not only contains a cheeky rip off of the Black Sabbath riff on ‘A National Acrobat’, but also a blast of an incoherent Scotsman (perhaps), Daft Punk-esque voices, and various other tripped out interludes. It’s where the acid-warped moments of Sgt. Pepper-meets-the-oh-so-French chugging of Stereolab in Alice in Wonderland. This is crazy, yet inventive stuff. Furthermore, Prochet has the decency to not over-egg the pudding, with the following short and sweet ‘Var Har Du Vart’, just a demo-quality song of simply an acoustic and her voice.

Meanwhile, the late 60s-influenced ‘Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige’ (When Angel’s Tears Make The Snow Dance), is underpinned by hyper-enthusiast drums courtesy of Prochet, a driving acoustic, baroque synths and kaleidoscopic guitar, overlaid by a weird spoken word interlude by Allbrook in which he reports that he wants to shit all over himself when he dies. While ‘Visions Of Someone Special, On A Wall Of Reflections’ is another musical journey into psychedelic terrain; Arabic textures, harpsichord-esque keys, reverb voices, sung in both French and English, the overall effect like some dodgy 60s film made on the cusp of the blossoming counter-culture of the time, as Prochet timelessly searches for love and meaning: “No it doesn’t seem right / Love can you last for a while?”

At opposites to her breezy debut album, Bon Voyage is a turbulent, emotional and yet contemplative journey into the heart of Prochet’s soul, fed by her fellow psychedelic experimentalist soulmates. That it doesn’t always quite gel, nor make for easy listening, is part of the point. Its raw, sometimes animalistic, outpourings are enhanced by a vibrant, excitable musicality that speaks of being alive, animated, and (hopefully) well.

Jeff Hemmings