Lineland: Logos For Love
Audio Dregs

Melodium: Cerebro Spin
Audio Dregs

Melodium: My Mind is Falling to Pieces

Recently The Wire made mention of Machinefabriek's staggering output but one could just as easily say the same about Laurent Girard's Melodium project: his latest, generally concurrent full-lengths follow three issued in 2007 and another three the year before. And, as with Machinefabriek, prodigious output doesn't translate into lapse in quality, as Girard appears eminently capable of creating a huge catalogue of songs with nary a weak one in sight.

Girard's instantly recognizable Melodium sound is sweetly melancholy at its core and is often as purely acoustic as electronic. There's something quintessentially Gallic about the Nantes, France-based musician's sound too—perhaps it's the acoustic guitar (what specifically sounds like a classical nylon-string guitar) and piano patterns that so often anchor the material that accounts for it, or maybe it's the drum beats that lightly gallop through Cerebro Spin's eleven songs. Throughout the album, Girard spins bits of acoustic guitar, piano, synthesizer, strings, flute, beats, and occasional vocals into breezy, sunlit folk-electronic pop tunes of immediately accessible character. It's a highly personal and intimate music that's sufficiently polished but at the same time down-home in its laid-back charm. With its somber flute motifs and wave-like lattices of acoustic guitar strums, “Meniere's Vertigo”—as good a representative track for the album as any—could be an excerpt from a soundtrack to a particularly bleak melodrama. Girard sometimes sings too and though his singing is as personalized as his music it's not, frankly, at the same level. Simulated string melodies give “Social Phobia” a pronounced neo-classical chamber music stateliness before rambunctious drum beats push the song into poppier territory, and intricate keyboard melodies of downcast character likewise lend “Panic Disorder” a classical feel. What prompted Girard to give the songs titles such as “Scoliosis + Astigmatism” (the former refers to an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine and the latter a refractive error of the eye in which parallel rays of light from an external source fail to converge on a single focal point on the retina) and “Eustachian Imperforation” (an auditory canal extending from the middle ear to the pharynx) isn't clear though the album title's Cerebro obviously perpetuates the biological theme with its allusion to cerebrum (the forebrain and the midbrain which control voluntary movements and coordinate mental actions)—not that titling ultimately makes that big of a difference to the Melodium style.

Maybe one should simply pass it off as Girard's attempt to inject some degree of humour into his music-making—an idea that finds further credence in song titles on My Mind Is Falling To Pieces like “Kiss Me, Then Shoot Me” and “You're Acting Like You Lost Your Mind.” The Arbouse recording, a fifty-minute set that preceded the Audio Dregs release by a few months, seems slightly more electronic and experimental compared to the relatively song-based Cerebro Spin but often the difference is so subtle as to be unnoticeable. My Mind Is Falling To Pieces includes more than its fair share of Girard's signature folk-styled melancholy, and again the songs center on acoustic guitar, piano, occasional vocals, and electronics. “I've Been Here Before” paints a picture as placid as Monet's gardens until a fuzz-toned electric guitar appears but before long Girard's customary acoustic guitar and piano playing arrive to return the music to familiar Melodium territory. One of the album's most ambitiously-structured compositions, the entrancing “Kiss Me, Then Shoot Me” builds a lilting and shape-shifting framework using minimal piano melodies and willowy spirals of acoustic guitar strums and picking. Though Girard's vocalizing is normally serviceable, it actually complements the classic folk style of “Christiane” perfectly, especially when his multi-tracked vocals are paired with a simple, sing-song piano melody, and his low murmur also enhances the hypnotic folk-chant “You Could Feel Space & Atoms.” The album ends strongly with the troubadour-like “Death Will Take Me Away From This World,” as solid a folk song as Girard's written, even if its alluring simplicity is lessened by the elaborate and episodic outro that follows the song's straightforward opening section.

Elaborate too in its instrumental palette, Logos For Love opens with Lineland (Malcolm Felder) simulating a large combo in the robust, vaguely psychedelic overture “Pat Garrett” and revealing a gift for melody too, as evidenced by the miniature piano theme skipping through the big band arrangement. His 2003 Pavilion release was produced using four-track Casio recordings, music software on a home-built Dynavox 2000 computer, vintage keyboards, and novelty instruments, and there's little reason to suspect Felder's radically strayed from the plot in the current case. Once again the songs are largely keyboard-based though fleshed out with acoustic instrumentation such as strings, acoustic guitars, and percussion. The electronic dimension is certainly present too but to his credit Felder refrains from randomly strewing electronic bits across these mini-landscapes; what sounds there are—and they are plentiful—are carefully considered and hardly, if ever, seem superfluous. Harp-like acoustic guitar patterns and lush strings join rollicking rhythms, glockenspiels, and clip-clop percussion in “Northside,” suggestive of a spirited gallop through the countryside. A markedly Oriental character pervades the stately melodies in “Pleats & Snaps,” an otherwise remarkable example of Felder's colourful sound design. “Emerald Board” is sunkissed pop of the kind one might imagine hearing at the south of France by the Mediterranean Sea while “Hollywood Graves” unfolds like a languorous afternoon bus tour through Los Angeles with a tour guide pointing out the mansions of long-dead movie stars. Though it appears late, the penultimate “Two Twenty” may be the album's most appealing track, a dreamily melancholic three-minute interweave of melodica-like cascades, silken acoustic patterns, and electronic splendor. At day's end, these are ornately-arranged instrumental pop songs that are intricate in compositional design without being weighed down oppressively by excess. The Lineland moniker's borrowed from Edwin A. Abbott's Flatland, the much-admired novel about life in a one-dimensional realm, but Felder's thirteen songs are anything but one-dimensional. They're not only sonically rich but the songs are like little stories too, with titles alone (e.g., “A Widow and a Prince,” “Mexican Village") capable of painting vivid pictures in the mind.

November 2008