After nearly 50 years, psychedelic rock has gone through various unexpected detours and backroads that it scarcely resembles the fuzzed-out acid-trips from where it once was born. It’s no longer the domain of Bay Area hippies or paisley-clad Londoners. And through decades of cross-pollination, its found comfortable, even natural bedfellows with the likes of lo-fi pop, funk and, even more naturally, dream pop, a genre that shares some of psych-rock’s stylistic characteristics, but more importantly aims for a comparable end —hallucinatory, out-of-body euphoria. French performer Melody Prochet, in particular, understands this dream-psych partnership, and under the name Melody’s Echo Chamber, finds a powerful meeting place between dreamy ethereality and heady psych freak-outs.
On Melody’s Echo Chamber’s self-titled Fat Possum debut, Prochet has a strong musical partner in Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker, whose effects-laden fuzzbox textures add a layer of heaviness to the songs’ beautiful surrealism. Yet this isn’t a strictly beauty-meets-beast convergence; Parker’s treatments don’t overpower Prochet’s cosmic pop songs so much as add some dense punctuation, never pulling them to the ground so much as they add a slight shell of armor as they drift along.
The mixture of varied, sometimes conflicting textures on this album provide a stunning sensory experience, which at the very least would make it an interesting record. What makes it a great record is Prochet’s songwriting, which allows for strong, sophisticated melodies to peek through the beaded effects curtains that drape each of the record’s 12 songs. A pair of early singles, “Endless Shore” and “Crystallized,” capture the essence of Prochet and Parker’s psych dazzle, the former drifting into shoegazer territory, while the latter sputters and skips with electronic beats and reverb-laden guitar jangle. Yet for as strong as these tracks are, they’re also the most straightforward, and tend to hold back some of the bolder experimental ideas in Prochet’s quiver.
When Prochet opts for slightly more abstract aims, she frequently arrives upon some even prettier sonic glories. “Some Time Alone” shimmers with exotic instrumentation and Prochet’s sweetly distant vocals, veering much closer to the surrealist sounds of Broadcast than Tame Impala’s crunchy rock. “Quand Vas Tu Rentrer,” one of two French-sung tracks, bounces with a `60s-style playfulness, while “Snowcapped Andes Crash” is a twinkling rabbit-hole of a waltz set against some booming drums. Most impressive of all is the upbeat “Be Proud of Your Kids,” which closes the record with a wonderfully, weirdly retro jangle and samples of children speaking French.
Further setting Melody’s Echo Chamber apart from more traditional psychedelic players (if such a thing can be said) is how stylish her music is. This isn’t the nebulous space rock of Pink Floyd, nor the theatrical pop of the Flaming Lips. It’s something more subtly seductive — a careful and sometimes confusing blend of textures that’s disorienting in all the right ways. The biggest misnomer about psychedelic rock is that drugs are some kind of requirement; as with the best psych artists, Melody’s Echo Chamber creates the sensation of hallucination entirely through the music.