Melodium: La tête qui flotte
Autres Directions In Music

The product of a year and a half's work, Melodium's (Laurent Girard) La Tête Qui Flotte (“the head that floats”) sounds markedly different from last year's Audio Dregs release Anaemia. While that album is a wholly instrumental collection of twelve cinematically polished pieces, some brief vignettes and others more ambitiously developed (one an epic thirteen minutes), the new work (in fact the first CD release from Autres Directions In Music following nine mp3 releases) is a slightly more personalized collection of fifteen acoustic-electronic pop songs; it's more succinct, too, with none exceeding five minutes. While the sound is often busier and more aggressive than that of Anaemia, the major difference is the inclusion of vocals, specifically by Girard, Dudley (fellow Autres Directions artist Stéphane Bossard), Girard's young niece Laïs-Salomé Massoussi, and his girlfriend Violaine Barbault (though her contribution to “La vie est plus belle despuis…” is virtually inaudible). While Girard acquits himself well enough, both songs on which Dudley's vocals appear would be stronger without them.

A pronounced home-made feel emerges (armed with a portable mini-disc recorder, Girard often records his music outside and then meticulously assembles it at home on computer), literally so in the case of “La chanson de Laïs-Salomé,” a ballad featuring his niece's charmingly amateurish singing. Girard's 'aaahhs' enliven the dramatically themed overture “Hellomusic” with its multiple layers of glockenspiel, piano, guitar, melodica, and clicking beats. Equally dense instrumental constructions include “Emptykuerten,” “Marcher a l'envers dans nantes-atlantique,” and “Le fin de tout” with its heavy strings and clockwork rhythms.

Melodium's music is often strongly evocative. The stately instrumental “Se rayer provisoirement de la liste des vivants” features a wistful melodica melody that's redolent of the French countryside while others songs conjure melancholy moods (the sombre “Gamm-recomposé” and brooding “Interlude pour dépressifs”), plus there's an almost baroque-classical dimension to the piano- and organ-based instrumental “Mon baromètre mental.” The most anomalous song is the animated “Kill Me with a Smile” which, with its fuzz guitar and distorted vocal, sounds more indie- than electro-pop.

At times, though, La Tête Qui Flotte's sound is a mite too dense, and the music feels oppressive and claustrophobic as a result (“Le fin de tout,” “Marcher a l'envers dans nantes-atlantique,” “L'attachement aux symptoms”); had Girard allowed a bit more space, the music would breathe more comfortably. The charming sing-song flute and melodica melodies (and Jew's harp) in the closer “La vie est plus belle despuis…,” for example, are all but overwhelmed by a cumulative mass of detail. Nevertheless, the album remains consistently captivating for its instrumental richness and the affecting melancholy that's at the root of Girard's compositions.

June 2005