Bon Voyage: Melody Prochet’s Fantastic Journey


This summer saw the long-awaited second release from Melody’s Echo Chamber: Bon Voyage arrived after five stop-and-go and, at times, tortuous years. On its June 15 release date Melody Prochet (vocal, guitar, synthesizers, violin, viola) wrote on her Facebook band page,

Today is a day life forced me to give up waiting for… ‘Bon Voyage’ is a little monster I hope will find it’s home in some of your hearts and…if not soothe, will resonate somehow positively…

So it comes down to listeners interacting with this beast, a theme-park ride of a record, while the artist, one imagines, pulls the covers over her head. First off, it is little, clocking in at a compendious 33 minutes. But given its twists and turns, its density and scope, the brevity of the work allows repeat listens to work out its strange but satisfying logic.

As I told a friend: I can’t imagine a Syd Barrett or Brian Wilson or Todd Rundgren or Wayne Coyne not really liking this record.

Prochet (b. 1987, Puyricard, France) began working on her sophomore project and releasing tracks (e.g. “Shirim”) in 2013. Rumor has it she threw away some of the material. Then last year she was involved in an undisclosed accident resulting in serious injuries. Her fans despaired until Bon Voyage was dropped in time for the summer solstice.

Melody’s Echo Chamber (2012) was readily classified as “psych pop.” But for those who tire of musical taxonomies Bon Voyage is as open borders as they come. The opening track “Cross My Heart” begins with composite acoustic guitar chords followed by a swelling string arrangement, a mid ’60s Wilsonish verse, then a beat box section folding into a flute and percussion-driven jazz passage embellished with some fanatical bass lines. The lyrics here, as throughout the album, flow freely between English and French. We’re escorted back to the opening chords for a reprise of the main (?) verse and a riff-laden, cinematic flourish.

As soon as “Breathe In, Breathe Out” drops a power rock groove the listener’s head-bobbing is interrupted by a trance section before the track accelerates again to its finish, the opening themes reworked but almost unrecognizable in the sonic whiplash.

Prochet cites composer Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992) as a favorite, and perhaps what we catch on this record are flecks of his emphasis on color and unusual time signature.

The first of two foci on this record is “Desert Horse,” pairing a dark Middle Eastern groove (including on old Black Sabbath riff) with a bright but plaintive chorus,

So much blood
On my hands
And there’s not much left to destroy
I know I am better alone

…except the isolation that birthed this record finds its emotional epicenter in the epic “Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige.” Ironically it’s among the more conventional and readily accessible tracks on the album, even at seven minutes. Imagine the Bee Gees not taking that disco detour…

[spoken word] …it comes through the window like a whistle or a whisper under the bed and little children think that the monster —

Angels, aching
Keep smiling
Ain’t no karma, only love
To punish those with rotten heart

Good to have Melody’s Echo Chamber back — and this creature on the loose.

Robert Smith–The Cure Redux!

Cure Disintegration
1989’s DISINTEGRATION.  Still waiting for its proggier sequel.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love The Cure–at least the non-bubbly Cure.  P—ography and Distintegration are two of the greatest albums of the rock era.

Needless to write (or, maybe, needful to write), I found this interview with Smith somewhat disturbing and a bit painful.  How he’d can’t recognize his own influence on at least two generations of those of us living in western civilization is simply beyond me.

And, Robert, please–just go full out prog and experimental and artsy on the next album.  What do you have to lose!?!?!

Sarah McLachlan’s FUMBLING at 25

sarahmclachlan fumbling
1993’s FUMBLING.  One of the all-time great albums of the rock era.

Let me throw down the mother of gauntlets as I start this piece.

Of all the bands and artists I’ve seen perform live over my fifty years of life, no one has ever exceeded Sarah McLachlan in intensity and performance.  And, yes, I’m comparing her to Rush, to Yes, to Tears for Fears, to Neal Morse, to Kansas, and to a whole host of others.  I’ve seen McLachlan numerous times, and I’ve yet to see anyone give as much as she does.

She gives every single thing she has, and she always has.

There.  The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Sadly, too many readers—and, undoubtedly, progarchy readers—know her for her somewhat sappy and quasi-ideological songs from the late 1990s and after.

Yet, to look at her first three studio albums is to see an artist as artist, an artist before the fame, an artist who knew and loved the art, an artist who simply wanted to become one with her art.  No angels, no building mysteries, and nothing fallen.  Just pure intensity–an artist, her heart, her soul, her words, her bandmates, her engineer, and her producer.

McLachlan’s first, TOUCH (1989).

McLachlan’s first album, 1989’s TOUCH, remains a delicate masterpiece, fragile yet held together invincibly by sheer force of honesty.  Just in her 20s, she already offered the Canadian equivalent of Mark Hollis on this album, full of proggy pop worthy of XTC and Tears for Fears.  Indeed, TOUCH—with its piano and 12-string guitars—might very well have been the perfect mix of Hackett-era Genesis and later Talk Talk.  Though each song on TOUCH is a pop song, the album as a whole is a prog album, having created the most coherent and unique of atmospheres.

Continue reading “Sarah McLachlan’s FUMBLING at 25”


MEW Kites
Such a hideous cover for such a perfect album.  What were these guys thinking with this cover?  It ranks up there with LOVE BEACH.

Many years ago now, I bought my first Mew album, FRENGERS, because of the recommendation of Big Big Train’s Greg Spawton.  Greg has impeccable music tastes (and book recommendations as well), so I was more than happy to learn of the Danish band.

I can state with no exaggeration that FRENGERS pretty much blew me away.

To a lesser extent, the same true of NO MORE STORIES.

Only very recently did I purchase AND THE GLASS HANDED KITES.  For whatever reason, it’s difficult to obtain in North America.  I had to order a used copy.

Whatever I thought of Mew’s other albums, this one is perfection itself.  It’s not only magnitudes better than their other albums (which are already excellent), but AND THE GLASS HANDED KITES is up there with PET SOUNDS, SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR, and SKYLARKING.

In other words, we’re now in the realm of prog-pop godhood.  Holy schnikees.  If you don’t have AND THE GLASS HANDED KITES, get it now.  Granted, the album art is simply terrible, but don’t judge an album by its cover!!!

A proper review is forthcoming.

If 1982 Came to 2015: The Receiver’s ALL BURN (Kscope)

Review of The Receiver, All Burn (Kscope, 2015).  11 tracks.

All Burn (Kscope, 2015).
All Burn (Kscope, 2015).

Formed a decade ago, The Receiver is the brothers Cooper – vocals, synths/keyboards, bass.  Each of the brothers handles vocals while Casey plays keyboards and bass and Jesse plays drums.  ALL BURN is the band’s third album, the first with Kscope.  The thing that strikes the listener immediately upon hearing the new album is the quality of the vocals and the vocal lines and melodies.  They are gorgeous.  Absolutely and completely gorgeous.  So gorgeous in fact that one could drown in their beauty.

Kscope has labeled The Receiver as “symphonic dream-prog” and if they had to be compared to another Kscope band, they would come closest to Sam Healy’s always-stunning North Atlantic Oscillation.  The Receiver resides on the pop end of Kscope’s offerings, they’re still far more pop than NAO.  Indeed, the best comparison would be to Thomas Dolby’s first album or something from mid-period OMD. Though the production—for the most part—is 2015, the sound is very 1982.

[As a side note, I’ve often wondered what a Big Big Train or a Porcupine Tree would do with One of Our Submarines.]

A moment ago, I mentioned the vocals.  Again, let me state: they are amazing, and these two brothers know how to sing together, and they especially know how to write vocal lines.  They use their voices rather perfectly for the lyrics.  In this way, they are far superior to Dolby or OMD.

If there’s a problem with the album, it’s the production of the bass and keyboards.  The musicianship is excellent, but the end product sounds tinny.  Frankly, I’m having a hard time gauging what’s exactly “not right” with them.  I think it’s that the vocals are so good and so well done that the bass and drums sound a bit thin and superficial, as though they were added on merely to make this a pop album.  It’s possible this is also due to the limitations of streaming the music—I’m listening to it streamed through an online promo on my MacBook Pro.  So, not ideal listening conditions.

Back to the good.  All Burn is pop in the best sense.  There are lots and lots of catchy hooks and lots of returns and repeats to key sections in the music. Still, there’s enough mystery and variety in the music to make it not simply another pop outing.  Songs such as “Dark Matter” have a Steven Wilson feel, and “April Blades” might have come from a Vangelis album.  The music grows moodier and moodier as the album progresses.  My favorite song, by far, is the penultimate track, “How to Be Young,” an existentialist pop navel gazer with lots of backwards production.  The final song, “These Days,” is probably the poppiest, taking us back to an Alphaville moment.

Don’t let my criticisms hold you back.  If you like good pop or pop prog, this album is for you.  If you want to imagine what a “Golden Age of Wireless” would sound like in 2015, buy this.  Or, if you simply love glorious vocals and vocalists, get this.  I probably won’t come back to this album too often, but I am quite interested to see what they do next.