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Nine Songs
Melody's Echo Chamber

With her third album Emotional Eternal ushering in a more peaceful, uplifting era, Melody Prochet takes Alan Pedder on an introspective trip through the songs that brought her here.

15 April 2022, 08:00 | Words by Alan Pedder

There’s a line from the first Melody’s Echo Chamber album where French psych-pop voyageuse Melody Prochet confesses “in the calm I find my truth”. Ten years on, that same principle bears some pretty heavenly fruit with Emotional Eternal, a more grounded and complete record than what has come before.

Only four years on from the dizzying tour de force of Bon Voyage, we find Prochet in a vastly different phase of her life. Having relocated to the Alps of High Provence and started a family – a “pure love bubble”, as she calls them – Prochet has swapped out much of the hustle of modern society for a life of sustained simplicity. Surrounded by mountains and vibrant fields of lavender, her sense of equilibrium and harmony has slowly been restored. “It’s like a peaceful otherworld here,” she tells me, “But a real one, one that feels deeply rooted.”

Of course, as the mother of a 3-year-old, Prochet’s newfound peace is not altogether unbroken, but the glow of her contentment gives Emotional Eternal a wonderfully enchanting feel. Teaming up once again with Swedish musicians Reine Fiske (Dungen) and Fredrik Swahn (The Amazing), Prochet delivers a giddy, groove-filled daydream set of songs that feel spacious, warm and as light as air. The maximalism of Bon Voyage has given way to much subtler shifts in tone, but the searching curiosity that has defined her Echo Chamber exploits is still there in the details.

“I’m fascinated by music that feels timeless, music that resounds and makes people vibrate in their souls,” she says. “That’s the feeling I am always looking to achieve in my music. I don’t know if we are quite there yet, but I hope we touched some part of that with this record.”

She tells me that compiling her Nine Songs selections was incredibly hard but rewarding, and “such an introspective trip”. “I’ve been stepping back from the past and trying to just let it be there, so listening to all these songs that I’ve loved over the years has been very interesting. I loved a lot of experimental, noisy production back then. All the surprises and all the dynamics. But I guess now that I’m older and have children screaming in my ears all day, I prefer silence and air in the music rather than noise. It's hilarious, because as much as I love bands like Stereolab, who are one of my major influences, I can’t really listen to that music as a 34-year-old mother. It’s just too much information for me.”

Having written her song choices down, at first Prochet couldn’t identify what exactly it was that tied her picks together. When talking through them together though, a common thread of endings and beginnings became clear. Not coincidentally, perhaps, yet it’s the same thread that bonds the songs of Emotional Eternal, which feels designed to be listened to on loop. It’s no accident that the last notes of the record offer a way back to the first swell of strings that ushers in the sunrise psych-pop of the title track.

“I’ve been studying art therapy for the past six months and it involves a lot of psychoanalysis,” she tells me. “I’ve really been trying to analyse the bonds between the things I’ve created and why, and what that says about the structure of my psyche. It’s so interesting, but also it’s a little scary when you go too much into it. You can really blow your own mind.”

“Prélude en C Majeur” by Johann Sebastian Bach

“I chose this piece because I remember playing a lot of Bach pieces when I was studying the viola as a kid. I started that aged six, but I think I must have been around 10 when I first heard “Prélude en C Majeur”. It made me feel complete.

“I just love the circularity of its structure. The movement, to me, evokes the eternal and the circularity of life. It kind of sounds like the key to some great mysterium. It’s so simple and yet incredibly complex, and it has such an emotional structure. And the resolution, coming back to the beginning, feels universal, natural. The magic that you can feel out in nature is somehow in the music.

“I don’t listen to a lot of classical music anymore, I’m not listening to a lot of music in general these days. Since my last album Bon Voyage I’ve basically been sitting in silence. There’s one piece I can talk about – I’m not sure you can call it classical, but somehow related – which is Béla Bartók’s “Romanian Folk Dances”.

"When I gave birth to my daughter, I had to have a Cesarean section and I remember singing that song while it happened. It was funny. I think I was crying at the time too. I really love folkloric music, like Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. It’s really left a mark on me.”

“Moon Trills” by Jonny Greenwood

“Growing up in a remote village in France, Radiohead was the first alternative music I heard on the radio. I was intensely immersed in classical training at the time – I would have been around 14 years old – and it really blew me away when I heard it. It was so new to me, and the music resonated immensely, especially Jonny Greenwood’s part in it. Jonny is a maestro. I really love the Ondes Martenot instrument he plays on a lot of Radiohead songs, and on “Moon Trills”. It’s like an ancient synth that you play with just one finger. It’s insane.

“Listening to him for the first time was like entering another world that felt rebellious and yet sort of respectful to classical roots. I thought his way of playing guitar, strings and piano was very interesting, and I think it never left my soul. There are two songs on my new record, “The Hypnotist” and “Alma”, that kind of have some fingerprints of my love for his music.

“The song “Moon Trills” is from the score to the documentary Bodysong, which is very experimental. I think his wife made the artwork for the record. I really love his other soundtrack work too, especially the score to There Will Be Blood.”

“Vitamin C” by Can

“I think I heard “Vitamin C” for the first time in 2010, when I moved to Paris after my studies. I think it was through a friend of my first producer. This song really opened my love for drumming, and I’ve been obsessed with drums ever since.

“I remember trying to play Jaki Liebezeit’s beats but that’s quite impossible. His rhythm is like my world’s groove. It’s like how my psyche works. His drumming makes you vibrate, it makes you feel alive, and it triggers such a range of emotions and creativity for me. I just want to live in his patterns. He was incredible.

“Some time later, I went back to my childhood music school to learn how to play drums. Some of the students I met there introduced me to Chris Dave and The Drumhedz. Chris Dave is another one of my favourite drummers of all time, but “Vitamin C” was my first love story with drums.”

“Before We Begin” by Broadcast

“There was a period in my life where Broadcast’s music was the sound that I dreamed of creating for myself. It’s sort of a bridge between dream-pop and alternative rock – and krautrock, even. I was really obsessed with them, and I think you can hear some similarities in songs like “Endless Shore” from my first record.

“In the end I think it was the poetry of Broadcast’s music that really captured my attention. Trish Keenan’s words. It felt impossible to choose a favourite song of theirs, really. In the end I chose “Before We Begin” because, again, I think has to do with circularity. It’s sort of the theme of my new record that keeps popping up in these songs.

"The first line in the song is ‘Here again at the end, before the beginning’, and I just keep coming back to that idea.”

“Jane B” by Jane Birkin

“This song is a sort of cover of a Chopin piece that I adore. It’s also strongly linked to a memory I have of a scene in the movie, Five Easy Pieces, where Jack Nicholson plays this song. I don’t really know why this moment has stuck with me. The song is quite sad, so maybe it resonates with my tendency towards melancholia. I used to listen to “Jane B” when I wanted to feel all the emotions and sort of trigger my own sadness, but I don’t do that anymore.

“We did a cover of “Jane B” on our first American tour and it felt very special to sing it. I love to sing in that high range like Jane Birkin. And I don’t know what it is about Serge. It’s weird, because everybody thinks I got my name from his album Histoire de Melody Nelson, but that's not the story.

“My parents didn't listen to Serge Gainsbourg at all. I only discovered his music when I was around 20, and it’s like his fingerprints just sneak into my records somehow and make a little appearance. On the new record, I think he’s there in the chorus of “The Hypnotist”.”

“Så Blev Det Bestämt” by Dungen

“I was introduced to Dungen in 2011 by my former producer, Kevin Parker. I personally didn’t really get their music right away, but it started to resonate a couple of years later. Then in 2015, Melody’s Echo Chamber played Levitation festival in Angers, France and I met Gustav Ejstes from the band. It’s funny, I remember just staring at him backstage. It was almost like a love at first sight thing in the way that we recognised each other as musicians, and our encounter made me feel alive in what was quite an odd period.

“I think I moved to Sweden the next month to record Bon Voyage with him and Reine Fiske. But it turned out another way, because Gustav had to cancel and Mattias Gustavsson, the bassist in Dungen, introduced me to Fredrik Swahn and his studio, so we ended up recording the first music with him, which was the song “Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige". It started in a very collective, ‘70s kind of way. You know, Swedish musicians can be quite hippie-ish, and everyone involved were honest, deep human beings, which felt really great for me. I needed that.

“Hearing the Swedish language was also very musical and mysterious. It felt so new. And I loved being in the nature there. I had the feeling of being able to breathe again. It was a completely opposite experience to recording my debut. I actually went back to the same studio in Solna to record Emotional Eternal with Fredrik and Reine.

“I love this song because it sounds like a poem. It has a softness to it, and I really like the chord progressions and the groove. It’s a song about endings? That’s funny. I didn’t even know that, but the song has always resonated with me in that way. I love that thing when you listen to music in different languages and even though you don’t understand the lyrics, you still feel the meaning in your bones.”

“Even though the lyrics are in Swedish, there’s a big Turkish influence on “Så Blev Det Bestämt”, especially the ending part. I know Dungen were not the first, but they were drawing inspiration from Turkish psych music before a lot of other bands. They’re like the big brothers of the new wave of psych rock.

“My love for Turkish music started with Selda Bağcan, who I find so fascinating, and Reine and I both share the same passion for her music. Reine is someone who can play anything but honestly, I don’t understand how he can play Turkish music so well. There must be a bond there, maybe at a cellular level.”

“Tudo que Você Podia Ser” by Clube da Esquina

“I discovered this incredible Brazilian song quite recently, around 2016, I think. I can’t remember exactly how I was introduced to it, maybe through the guys in Dungen again. Whatever way this song came into my life, once it was in my life it was with me all the time.

“I tried to practice their incredible chords on guitar. The lyrics are full of poetry and the song just sounds so rich and beautiful, with their incredible harmonies. It’s weird, I don’t really have much of a story about this song, probably because that time was really a period of nothingness in my life.

“The Clube da Esquina album had a very strong influence on Dungen’s music, and I think you can definitely hear that. You can hear the influence on my own music too. It really had an effect on us while making Bon Voyage. The middle section of “Cross My Heart” has some similarities, with these rhythmical Brazilian chords. If you take all the production and ornamentation away, the base and the structure of the song is very similar to the kind of techniques they used. And “Visions of Someone Special, On a Wall of Reflections” is almost a rip off. Don’t tell anyone!

“I don’t speak Portuguese, but I think it’s one of the softest languages and I just love to hear it. I love Marcos Valle. And Tuca, who is a Brazilian musician and producer. She produced Françoise Hardy’s La Question, which is also one of the biggest records of my life. But I only have nine songs to talk about. That’s not enough – I have so many more!”

“Aç Kapıyı Gir İçeri” by Özdemir Erdoğan

“Again, it was Reine who introduced me to the music of Özdemir Erdoğan. Reine is a real treasure chest of knowledge, he’s a collector. It’s just insane how he knows so much wonderful music. He used to work in the archives department of some kind of folkloric music society. I’m not sure in which country, I don’t think it was Sweden. Though, interestingly, I do think that Swedish folklore does sometimes sound similar to Turkish folklore.

“I chose “Aç Kapıyı Gir İçeri” because, to me, it feels just as powerful as Selda’s music, even though it’s a bit faster and sounds more modern. It doesn’t sound like a song from 1974. The bassline feels almost like something you would hear in a Michael Jackson song. I also love the strings in this song. They sound like rain and it’s really beautiful. We were definitely influenced by the string section when recording the new album.

“For a long time I didn’t know what Özdemir Erdoğan was singing about but then I found a video that subtitled the lyrics. It’s kind of a heartbreak situation but I read it as being about a love that’s bigger than just one person. I don’t know if that was his intention.”

“Svefn-g-englar” by Sigur Rós

“This song is such a soundscape, it’s beautiful. It has so much space and air that you can get lost in it. I really use the word ‘otherworld’ too much, but this song is exactly that. I don’t know why, but I do feel that the north is at the root of me. The landscapes of the north – especially Iceland and Sweden – are so attractive to me.

“I put "Svefn-g-englar" at the end of the list because it’s the song that I discovered most recently, five years ago, even though it came out in 1999. This one evokes my family – my bubble – and it’s been my new partner’s reverie song. Building this family has been such a source of joy for me. The improvement and structure in my life has made it such a joyful period, and I think the new record reflects that.

“I don’t know why this song never came into my life before. I did hear it once, when I was in Norway, but for some reason I didn’t go back to it. It just passed me by at the time, and now it’s the story of our family. I didn’t know this song was about being in the womb and about being born. Wow. So, it totally works in our theme!”

Emotional Eternal is released via Domino on 29 April
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