Melody’s Echo Chamber

The debut album from Melody’s Echo Chamber is a trip into the sounds of the psychedelic atmosphere. This collection of pop songs paint a myriad of scenes, from glistening beaches and their rollicking waves in slow motion, to echoing, dream-like lucidity in the space of sugary melodies. Such sounds, however, could not have been conceived without “song guru” Kevin Parker from Tame Impala.

The two met in 2010 when Tame Impala were touring in France. After their show, Prochet approached Parker about how he achieved his sound. “… I was blown away by it, and wanted to know nerdy things like what pedals he was using…” Parker, however, did not reveal his secrets, but Prochet still managed to give him a demo CD. Three days later, Prochet and her then-band My Bee’s Garden were invited by Parker on a European leg of Impala‘s tour. A friendship ensued and the two worked together halfway around the world in Parker’s “glorious mess” of a home studio. Due to her self-consciousness, however, the vocals were recorded along the French riviera in the house of Prochet’s grandparents. Notwithstanding, Prochet tore away from her habitually “pretty and dreamy songs” and achieved her psychedelic “dream sound.”

The sugary I Follow You opens the album, followed by the electrically pulsing and exploding Crystallised. You Won’t Be Missing that Part of Me is drenched in a shimmering palette of bubbly sounds, warbles and lasers.
The first recordings for Some Time Alone, Alone were created in the week Parker left Prochet for touring. He had stuck post-its on the equipment  so that she could use them properly. When she went to record in the studio, she found the notes mixed up by a Pond member who had used the room previously. Left to her confounded own devices, Prochet plugged a guitar into the preamp and began recording the guitar sections. Although “wrong technically,” the guitar sections were used anyway as they were “uniquely textured.”

Bisou Magique eschews in a darker side to the album, helped by the foreign lyrics. Prochet stated in an interview that she sings in French when she brings up something painful and doesn’t want others to understand. “It’s my secret. It’s so personal. Everyone’s got a dark side, eh? All your things you don’t even tell yourself, your flaws. It’s intriguing.” 

The ‘rising’ guitars and bright cymbals of Endless Shore depict the immense brightness and space of a beach in the morning. The intriguing Quand Vas tu Rentrer? follows and takes the album into an obscure atmosphere, while the seemingly slowed-down tempo and lucid vocals of Mount Hopeless carve into a state of languidness.

“This one we played with, we put it through filters, backwards and it sounded cooler,” said Prochet of Is That What You Said. The duo were strained for time at this point, so Prochet recorded the original playing backwards and at a faster tempo. 

Aside from depicting cannibalism in isolation mountains, Snowcapped Andes Crash is the heaviest psychedelic track on this album. The instrumental section brims over with fiery explosions that progress into spacey recurrences of backward guitar chords and warbling sounds.

The child-like Be Proud of Your Kids finishes the album. The young girl featured in it is named Zelda, whom Prochet used to babysit in France. In an interview, Prochet explained, “She was singing this really weird song she learnt at school which was the most vulgar thing. I had a really big laugh and asked her to do it again and I recorded her, and at the end she says this really funny thing: “I announce to you that the radio is over.”” And with that, the colourful odyssey ends.


The Dissociatives

Some more awesome Aussies I discovered this year are The Dissociatives, a creative duo that consisted of Daniel Johns and Paul Mac. Their self-titled album boasts an unusual and unique collection of songs created by the usual amalgamation of rock and electronics, despite the two deriving from completely different musical backgrounds.
Daniel Johns is a guitarist and singer from the metal band, Silverchair. The band reached prominence  in 1994 through the release of their single Tomorrow, after winning a competition that rewarded them a recording session for one song. Their subsequent albums enjoyed the same, if not greater, success as the single.
Paul Mac is an electronics music artist, DJ and producer who worked with a variety of Australian acts to much success. He released his first album in 2001, titled 3000 Feet High. After listening to this, the  Dissociatives sound as if they have more of Mac’s style than Johns’s, although the latter does give the songs his characteristic voice.

The two met in 1997 when Mac remixed Silverchair‘s song Freak. Mac then began to play instruments in some Silverchair songs and appeared on stage with them on several occasions, leading to a friendship between the two. They decided to record some songs with each other, which were then released in 2000 on an EP called I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rock. Then in 2003, the duo decided to record an album together, and released The Dissociatives in 2004.

A quiet beat opens the ambient We’re Much Preferred Customers. Initial listens give the impression that little happens within the song, however, if you listen closer, you find that numerous sound effects and melodies in the background give the song a full and busy undertone. Even though I’ve never listened to this song until this year, it sounds so nostalgic as it captures the sounds typical of early 2000s music.

Somewhere Down the Barrel immediately starts with a louder electronic beat and in media res. The lyrics are about the existence of purpose beyond a consumerist lifestyle, and contains one of the coolest lines: A terrorist’s a prisoner, and a tourist a thief when paintings seem like bargains when they’re nothing but wallpaper.
Horror with Eyeballs is a slower, waltz-like song with a circus-freak undertone. Towards the end of the song, the melodies unexpectedly deviate in and out of these ‘insanity’ sections before giving into it completely.
Lifting the Veil From the Braille and Paris Circa 2007 Slash 08 are both instrumentals that use the same techniques, such as repeated melodies and layered background percussion and electronic effects. Despite this, both songs don’t sound like rehashes of each other, and the lack of lyrics do not create the impression that a layer is missing. Towards the end of Lifting… Braille, there’s an ascending flute melody that sounds as if it were taken from some familiar 70s pop-rock hit, something Abba would use…
Forever and a Day takes us into the torture of waiting for a loved one for what seems like forever. Small melodies from an orchestra of sounds and a filling percussive background maintain the song’s rich atmosphere through to its finish with vocal harmonising by a children’s choir.
Thinking in Reverse opens on an insistent beat followed by an agitated piano melody. The lyrics bring the song into a darker mood until the very danceable chorus. The ‘rising’ backward guitar gives the impression that the sound is moving towards you somewhere deep in the song, before it is abruptly stopped by the return to the dark mood. In the final verse, the lyrics overlap each other and give a completely different meaning to the song.
The best song on this album, in my opinion, is Young Man, Old Man (You Ain’t Better Than the Rest).
Despite the initial simplicity of this song, further listening allows you find all the melodies and rhythms in the background that create its rich and resounding atmosphere. The guitarist alludes to Guns ‘n’ Roses song November Rain in his solo outside a church in the middle of typically sun-baked Australian country.
A stopped-record intro opens Angry Megaphone Man and progresses through a series of unexpected melodic changes, one of which gives the impression of slowed time through little instrumentation and slowed-down effects in the background.
Sleep Well Tonight closes the album in the same way it started, this time in the manner of a lullaby. There is little instrumentation, made up for by the constantly moving vocal melody and lyrics.
Although its just one album, The Dissociatives prove that rock and electronic music do go well together, and that such an opposing combination creates original and unusual songs.


Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

From the few albums I’ve listened to, The Flaming Lips are an American rock band with stylistically eclectic albums that dabble and weave in a variety of styles. Their most impressive and listenable album, in my opinion, is Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The songs are rich in melodies that counter the layered instrumental harmonies in the background, and with the added sound effects, no gap is left unfilled. The Flaming Lips are sonic thirst-quenchers. 
The man-versus-machine theme pervades nearly the first half of the album, and then continues, generally, on a futuristic theme. When you follow the narrative within the lyrics, the sound effects give the impression that the songs take place in a Colosseum of the future.
Fight Test opens the album in a live setting and introduces the theme of time. The lyrics are mentoric as they narrate personal experiences of winning and losing in a melody bearing striking resemblance to Cat Stevens‘s Father and Son.
One More Robot/ Sympathy 3000-21 is more futuristic in its narration of robots learning to understand and display emotions. Metaphorically, the song suggests that future humans are so mechanised that they lose that which distinguished them from machines. The lyrics depict these ‘robots’ realising this, and therefore relearning to be human.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Parts 1 and 2 introduce the character of the album. An ordinary Japanese girl by the name Yoshimi is training to defeat the machines, and battles them in a bombastic and extremely colourful instrumental in which she- SPOILER ALERT!– ultimately wins.

In the Morning of the Magicians is a calmer song with a melancholic undertone, with the lyrics questioning what love and hate are, and why they mean a great deal. 
Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell is a slower song reduced to a simple rhythmic accompaniment and groovy bass riff. This, and the addition of echoing vocals, give the impression of an ego suspended in space.
Are You a Hypnotist? is a down-tempo song. Although simple in texture, it builds increasingly builds in tension through the low chords of the synthesised organ and the later addition of harmonising, operatic vocals.
It’s Summertime is another slow and melancholic song. Aspects of it that stand out the most are the subtle changes from the major to the minor key in the vocal melody. The reverberating bass also gives the song a cosmic atmosphere, particularly towards the end.
The lyrics speak for themselves in the phat sound and rich melodies highly reminiscent of ELO within Do You Realise?

All we Have is Now takes on a futuristic perspective that reminds us of the fleeing nature of time and the importance of being in the present.
The album finishes with the groovy instrumental Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia), where the ad-lib vocals far in the background sound very similar to Pink Floyd‘s The Great Gig in the Sky.
In all, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a highly enjoyable listen for its rich sonic atmosphere, intricate harmonies, and story-like lyrics in the theme of a clockwork future.