The first track on Melodium’s new album The Island sounds like movie music to me. It starts with a simple, repeating melody played on an organ of some sort , then joined by another, and then some harmonium tones playing counterpart to it. At first it resembles a character’s theme in a movie, straightforward as it is, but as it proceeds it gets more complicated in a way that fills out the mood. It might be the harmonium, but what it really recalls is Jon Brion’s score to Adam Sandler’s best movie, Punch Drunk-Love, which in simple strokes made music that felt both big-screen romantic and primitive, like something your next-door neighbor (or his toddler) would come up with while messing around with a toy instrument he found at a yard sale.
Melodium’s music in general has both romantic/mood-music/suck you into one all-encompassing atmosphere tendencies and a homemade demeanor. The prolific nature of Laurent Girard, aka Melodium, fuels both. He is continually bouncing back between experimental and pop releases, so to speak, but really both are the same thing on the same continuum. All use electronic and acoustic instruments together in thematic, playful ways that use melody while playing with interesting noises. The releases of his described as pop are usually just those where he sings on some of the songs. Here, of 11 songs, six include his vocals—basically every other track. He talk-sings, less a rap or storytelling than sing-speaking your inner thoughts to a tune.
If the music is pretty—a little sad and strange maybe, but always lovely—the songs get darker when he sings. They’re pessimistic where you expect, from the music, that they’d be optimistic. Start with “The Dark Home”, which has a death wish, some apocalyptic imagery (on a personal level—“the black hole of your mind”) and the repeated message, “you should never follow me around”.
All of the songs with vocals begin with “the”—“The Dark Home”, “The Feeble Light”, “The Little Robot”, “The Outside” and “The Pseudo Friends”—while the instrumentals mostly have Latin words for titles. The vocal ones do seem to be telling us a story. Sometimes it seems to be about obsession, sometimes even more ominous. All seem the thoughts of troubled minds. “The Little Robot” touches on human nature through a robot when he sings, “I will kill you as soon as you will have your first feelings.” In “The Outside”, someone with serious fears thinks of eliminating humans: “…and she’s gonna spread her virus in an empty field and eradicate the human race / just to be alone.” Switching between these cynical little ditties and calm soundscapes makes the LP all the more intriguing.
In the middle of the album is the most serene and maybe simplest piece, “In Deserto”. A piano plays gracefully in front of some field-recording-type noise. If the craziness of the “pop songs” makes you think of The Island as a portrait of a mental hospital, the beauty of the instrumentals, along with their sweeping nature, makes us think it’s all part of the big sweep of the world, that our turmoil and terrors are just miniscule specks on a map.