Melody’s Echo Chamber – ‘Bon Voyage’ review

On this long-awaited return, psych-rock explorer Melody Prochet hop-scotches between moods and ideas like she’s on a time-limit

It’s six years since Puyricard, France-hailing multi-instrumentalist Melody Prochet released her self-titled debut album as Melody’s Echo Chamber. Produced by Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, the record aligned Prochet with Parker’s distinctive sound, as well as that of fellow psych luminaries Pond and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. This was forward-thinking, hallucinatory music with the ability to go beyond its late-60’s influences.

Prochet’s follow-up hasn’t been without its obstructions and frustrations. It was initially touted for 2017, but the musician was hospitalised shortly after announcing the album, with a family statement citing a “serious accident.” Before then, she scrapped a collection of songs and halted recording sessions with Parker.

Despite being completed before last year’s hospitalisation, ‘Bon Voyage’ finds Prochet compressing years of ideas into seven long and winding, full-gusto tracks. Within the first 20 seconds of opener ‘Cross My Heart’, she showcases a post-punk style guitar riff, textured acoustics, elaborate drum rolls and a widescreen, cinematic string section. Not long after, she diverts towards beatbox breakdowns, shuffling bass lines, flute solos and a trap beat – all within the space of 10 seconds. It’s as though she’s ransacked a library of globe-spanning archive recordings, cramming each into tiny parts.

Her wondrous, collage-style approach is a constant across the record. Save for the more straightforward ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out’, which best resembles her 2012 debut, Prochet hop-scotches between moods and ideas like she’s on a time-limit. The hyperactive ‘Desert Horse’ starts off simply enough, but soon descends into a haze of high-pitched vocoder and strung-out, beatless refrains. Two minutes in, there’s nothing but the sound of Prochet breathing in, like she’s surveying the result of her Pollock-style chaos. It’s about the only pause in an otherwise non-stop, frenzied journey into the unknown.

There’s no doubt this is the album Prochet has long desired to make; for every odd about-turn, she sounds more confident in her pursuit of the new. It’s a challenge, though, to find your own satisfaction in these formless freak-outs. Yes, there’s joy to be found in hearing a musician so unshackled from expectation and finding catharsis in the experience. But ‘Boy Voyage’ lacks a running thread, centrepiece or concept to build itself around. It’s a wild, space-age trip that could do with a return ticket back to Earth.

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