Each decade, it seems, there’s a new torchbearer for technicolor, kraut-indebted, electronic-inflected female fronted guitar pop. Twenty years ago saw the rise of Stereolab. A chance meeting at a gig between French singer Laetitia Sadier and the Marxist-minded McCarthy guitarist Tim Gane saw rise to an incredibly fruitful songwriting partnership that outlasted both McCarthy and, if you’re counting recent collaborations, Stereolab itself. Ten years go by and Broadcast usurps the throne, bringing further electronic influences and straightforward poppy songwriting to the groove-laden songwriting that Stereolab popularized. Though there was obviously a time period of great overlap, it was Broadcast expanding the sound, treading new ground, moving forward while Stereolab fizzled to a close.
And then today. Melody’s Echo Chamber comes forth, finding its place in the technicolor, the psychedelia, and the brilliant and bursting cool that both of these bands represented. The story behind Melody’s Echo Chamber is in some ways eerily similar to that of Stereolab: Melody Prochet, the French singer and multi-instrumentalist behind the moniker and the record, finds her way to a Tame Impala gig in Paris. By some beautiful accident she finds herself embroiled in conversation with Kevin Parker after the show and parlays that into an extended stay at the band’s compound in Perth, Australia. Before you know it, Prochet and Parker are a thing, and Parker’s magical underwater instrumentation and production found their way to Melody’s buzzy debut single in “Crystallized.”
From that moment, it became quite clear that it was Melody’s Echo Chamber who would seek to claim the throne once inhabited by Sadier and Keenan. “Crystallized” turned the saturation dial all the way to the right, dousing Broadcast’s shoegazey pop songs in the sun-glazed psychedelic melt of Parker’s guitar work. Four months pass and the record that follows is no disappointment. Delving slightly further into Prochet’s pop sensibilities, and treading the line between Keenan influenced and Keenan knockoff, this debut record sits comfortably in its sonic pocket content with the strides it’s already made rather than opting for any sort of notable diversity.
It might be tempting to see that as some sort of knock on the album, but it just has the effect of making many of the tracks here feel familiar, even in a first run through. But his isn’t the sound of a band running through paths already blazed. Rather, it’s the sound of ascending to a seat already warmed. The arpeggios that open the record on “I Follow You” recalls “Endless Shore,” which in it’s own way recalls “Crystallized.” There’s a homogeneity in the production and aesthetic that lends itself to the nostalgia that’s mined here, that lends itself to the flow of the album. It’s a subtle narcotized float, punctuated at its conclusion by a soaring sprawl of inverted guitars and keyboards on “Is That What You Said.” Along the way you’re treated to some bilingual lyrics to indulge on your francophilic sensibilities, a post-Deerhunter stomp on “Some Time Alone Alone,” the if-Spiritualized-were-sober keyboard exercises of “You Won’t Miss That Part Of Me.” So there’s variation, no doubt, but enough similarity so that each track seems crafted of singular mind and vision. Part of you wants Prochet to push herself, but you can’t fault the band for sticking to her guns so wholeheartedly when they hit their mark as clearly as they do on the aforementioned tracks.
We’re not yet two years removed from the tragic passing of Trish Keenan, but it’s clear that music needs a voice like hers in it. Though Melody Prochet obviously stews Keenan’s influence along with her spacier inclinations it’s clear that in some ways we have a kindred spirit. Breathy vocals, immensely hooky songwriting and a brilliantly defined technicolor aesthetic established from the very beginning. Such description could have been thrown at Stereolab in the early ’90s and at Broadcast in the early 2000s. It’s clear, if only from a 7” and this debut record, that Melody’s Echo Chamber is headed for the same mantle.
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London-based multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood takes some time to talk briefly with Beats Per Minute about a few of his favorite records.
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