Melody's Echo Chamber's 'Bon Voyage' is The Psychedelic Trip of the Year
We spoke to the French musician about her wildly experimental, impressively cohesive, bi-lingual musical fantasia of a new record.
Photo by Diane Sagnier
The phrase “sonic landscape” might be overused by music journalists, but fuck it: it’s an accurate description of Bon Voyage, the new album from Melody’s Echo Chamber. The record is a terrain of twists, turns, timeholes and passageways into different dimensions. To listen is to feel like you’re on a journey you may never come back from, on a surreal excursion across a desert with pink mountains and apparitions shimmering in the distance. It's a trip—one with enough acidic tinges to give Syd Barrett palpitations.
Take “Desert Horse,” an epic, glittering track that will enter your brain and change its chemistry for good. There are vocoders, flares, backwards samples, North African instrumental ululations popularized in France by the mighty Jean Claude Vannier. There are screams, some beatboxing, words shouted in Swedish, sitars, feedback and even moments where everything drops out but for some naked breathing anticipating an inaudible pulse. It’s a dichotomy of wild experimental production and a grounded pop sensibility—a wild fantasia of sound.
Across Bon Voyage’s seven tracks, the surprises and the ideas never let up. Born out of a collaboration between Melody Prochet and Dungen’s Reine Fiske and The Amazing’s Fredrik Swahn, writing sessions for the album encouraged each musician to experiment with instruments that might be less familiar to them. In particular, Prochet returned to her childhood music conservatory to learn drums, which she plays on “Breathe In, Breathe Out”, and wrote violin arrangements with Fiske, all of which were recorded in a suburb outside of Stockholm.
Though Bon Voyage was completed last Spring, its release was pushed by more than a year due to an unspecified “serious accident” Prochet had—which, in a strange twist of fate, seemed to be foretold by at least one lyric, the line “Mama said you must be strong / Healing’s slow”, from “Breathe In, Breathe Out.” When the album was released this July, Prochet had chosen not to promote the record in person, so for the few interviews she has granted, answers would be provided via email. Below are her responses to some questions we sent over.
Noisey: Bon Voyage is out! Congratulations! It’s my favorite album of the year. How’s the feedback been from fans?
Melody Prochet: Yes, what an adventure, thank you! I tried to stay away from social media as much as possible, so far I’ve had pretty fantastic feedback from close musician friends and my sister sends me some press or people's messages. I think she sends me the very nice ones though.
Psychedelia has been present in music for over 50 years now. How did you make it sound so fresh?
I think for me it was just a quest to some lightness when I discovered adulthood's obscurity. I tried to have as much fun as possible working, trying to fit all my musical memory of treasures into one record and somehow make it work into an imperfect harmony, a magical dark well. Sometimes it was very natural, sometimes I forced it. I think we ended up producing a fantasy which is perceived as hallucinogenic music. I'm glad it sounds fresh to you, I've been told by someone I admire that the record is pretty avant grade and futuristic and that in his opinion it opened some doors to more freedom in creating music these days, and that's fabulous to hear.
There’s a dichotomy on Bon Voyage between experimenting and sticking to more pop sensibilities, especially on tracks like “Desert Horse.” Did you set out to push both to the limits?
Absolutely, this track was my monster, I really enjoyed producing it. It was such sculptural work, the guys had no idea what I was doing until the last piece was in place. Only then they understood it was not just a song… I needed to feel intensely, produce intensely because I didn't feel much alive for so long. But if you take out the production and make a simple guitar cover, it is in my opinion a very classical pop song, catchy and emotionally recognizable.
So much went into each song—were there any that didn’t make the cut? Seven tracks is quite an unusual number of songs to release.
Oh... you have no idea how much material we produced, there wer three more songs, all that intense. We loved and worked on them until the end, until there was no time or energy left and I still wasn't satisfied enough with mixes to put them on. It took me some time to accept that it was only 7 tracks, but then I understood it was probably for the best and already so intense. Like Gustav always says "it is what it is."
As editor in chief on what’s been a critically acclaimed record, did it feel good to maybe dispel some of the misconceptions about Kevin Parker’s contribution to your career?
This whole Swedish adventure restored my confidence as a musician and as an adult woman in a mad world. It had slowly, deeply been destroyed the last few years, but also I realized it was a deep child's wound that kept being triggered when people had inelegant, judgmental or mischievous words and opinions regarding my musical and private life.
Your message on Facebook when you released the album sounded surprisingly downbeat. What did you mean by “Today is a day life forced me to give up waiting for”? Is it because the record took so long to come out?
I don't think it was unenthusiastic, i think it's a very beautiful thing to be forced to quit waiting for something to happen and finally being at peace with it and then it happens. Of course it's not the same kind of pleasure and excitement anymore, you have to move on, but it's a range of much deeper graceful emotions and gratefulness.
You also said: “I'm not sure how I feel except mad gratefulness to a whole bunch of human angels.” How do you feel now? What do Reine and Frederik think of the record?
To me this whole process and the last few years were a sacred battle on so many levels. So I've been wondering if it was all worth it to just make some music... and I think it was all worth it because of the few fabulous people I've met and shared a piece of life and emotion with. Especially Reine and Swahn. They are very happy with the experience and record. We love and respect each other deeply and forever.
Your life sounds like it has been very up and down since the release of your debut album, in 2012. Is there likely to be a similarly long wait for the next record?
Most people I know have binary lives and difficulties, even more dramatic or complex, it's just real life and adulthood. I have no idea if I'll feel like making more music yet but I need to always let the doors open to anything.
Can we expect to see live shows in the future?
I don't know, I'm about to give birth to a little girl in two weeks, and i'm sure anybody who already has kids knows that you can't imagine much further until you're in it. I know it's gonna be wild for a while and i want to be fully present. Making music demanded all my being so far.
What’s your one hope for the future?
Keeping the ones I love as long as possible close to me, in good health.
You can find Jeremy on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.