March 06, 2006

Melodium "La Tete Qui Flotte"

Melodium is the pseudonym of 30-year-old Frenchman Laurent Girard. He lists Autechre, Greg Davis and Boards of Canada as influences on his MySpace profile. He writes on his personal website that he doesn’t play live, and prefers to make music alone in his room. As expected, his fifth album La Tete Qui Flotte sounds like the work of a “folk-tronica” shut-in. Girard plays acoustic guitar (and occasionally sings) atop a bed of programmed drums, keyboards and melodica that, even at its most densely layered, never gets loud enough to wake the neighbors. If you’ve heard any of the aforementioned artists, you won’t be surprised by anything on La Tete Qui Flotte. If you own any record on the Morr Music label, you don’t need this album in your life at all! Nonetheless, if you seek this album out, it’ll charm you...the first half of it, at least.

Opening track “Hellomusic” introduces the building blocks of the Melodium sound one by one. A circular four-chord progression is picked out on an acoustic guitar as programmed drums click and pitter-patter behind it. Squelching keyboards, tinkling xylophones and wheezing melodicas play simple yet effective melodies. Each instrument is removed from and inserted back into the mix, which makes the song feel like it’s being remixed in real time. Wordless vocal harmonies bring the song to a climax shortly before the coda. The next track, “Les Psychotropes Sont Mes Amis, Puis Mes Ennemis...,” is even better. During the first half, Girard’s sad, croaky singing gives the music a Black Moth Super Rainbow feel. Then, the drum programming is run through a series of meter changes, beat displacements and utter disruptions that show off Girard’s love of Autechre. He then begins to cut up his own vocals with the same enthusiasm. It’s as close as Melodium’s music ever comes to being abrasive. On a couple other songs, Girard runs his keyboards through woozy Boards of Canada-style vibrato. Overall, the first seven songs do a great job of synthesizing all of Girard’s influences into a cohesive whole.

Unfortunately, the second half of La Tete Qui Flotte makes me think that the guy may need to get out more. Many of the songs start sounding like sloppier remakes of each other. Whereas the keyboard fugues on “Hellomusic” sounded majestic, the keyboard fugues on “Mon Barometra Mental” fall out of sync with each other every few seconds. Whereas Girard’s voice sounds pleasant on “Les Psychotropes...,” his singing on “La Fin De Tout” is so out of tune with the music that when my little brother caught me listening to the song on my boom box, he glared at me and shook his head. The album finishes strong with “La Vie Est Plus Belle Depuis...,” a song that pairs a jig-like flute with a kitschy Jew’s harp. By then, though, it’s a case of too little too late. La Tete Qui Flotte is Melodium’s fifth album; therefore, it’s not unfair to expect Girard to have mastered the art of sustaining the listener’s interest by now. As it stands,
though, his music may still be best suited for the EP or 7-inch format.

--Sean Padilla

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