MELODIUM: Cerebro Spin (Audio Dregs)


Posted on Jan 27th 2009 11:18 pm

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Melodium: Cerebro Spin

Cerebro Spin
Audio Dregs 2008
11 Tracks. 50mins40secs

Melodium is too polite.  Laurent Girard, the man behind the moniker, is a master of gentle suggestion and microscopic whisps of mystery.  Girard consistently seems to be asking nicely for an audience, rather than demanding to be heard.  It’s a trite analogy, but like the budding of a rather colorful flower in the middle of a forest, the melodies of Melodium need to be sought out by listeners with patience, an ever-rarer trait in the current musical climate ridden with flash-in-the-blog din.

From the sound of it, Cerebro Spin is an album that was made because Girard had to make it.  If any of these tracks were rushed or frustratingly birthed to fill space, I can’t hear it.  Every piece of this puzzle is significant to Girard in ways that those who don’t know him personally will probably never figure out.  But consider the emotional impact of Cerebro Spin like hearing one side of a telephone conversation: you won’t get the whole picture, but the emotions of the present party are on naked display.  Or, perhaps Melodium’s tender tracks are best approached as Pablo Neruda on poetry – the meaning that the beholder (or listener, in this case) derives for him/herself is more significant and affecting than anything Girard could have outlined in liner notes or lyrics.

One of the pleasant surprises about Cerebro Spin is that Girard is a deft weaver of whichever instruments are at his disposal.  Kissing Disease features what sound like digitally synthesized flutes and horns; normally, this kind of “cheap” sound is difficult to seriously incorporate into music that doesn’t fetishize its stamp of artificial sheen.  Yet, Girard slips them in and out as lead lines, buttressed by his ever-present acoustic guitar in a way that illuminates such cold sounds in a warmer light.  Girard further softens hard percussion noises, such as the jungle-lite groove that pops in and out of Social Phobia, such that drum parts that would be commanding are relegated to an incidental presence, like rain on a windowpane.

There’s a singer-songwriter within Girard, and when he’s allowed out, the effect is an update on classic psychedelic futurists like early David Bowie, or even Donovan.  Girard’s singing teeters a hushed line between vocals and vocalizing.  When, on Vocal Chord Polypus, he repeats a refrain – ‘you can’t touch the bottom / you should go to London’, I don’t know what he’s talking about, but framed by glistening synths and horns, it somehow sounds like good advice.  Not Yet 2 is the most traditional singer-songwriter song of the set, Girard repeating a minor-major resolution with lyrics that paint a picture of soul-searching – ‘you wanted to know yourself’ – slowly overtaken by synth horns.  A beautifully warped take on indie-pop, it’s the best song Badly Drawn Boy never wrote.

As gentle and reassuring as Cerebro Spin can be, there’s a melancholic undercurrent here.  Many of the tracks are titled after diseases and disorders – Social Phobia, Panic Disorder, Kissing Disease.  Closer Scoliosis + Astigmatism has the saddest melody, with a woodwind (either synthesized or played; at this point it becomes hard to tell) weeping on loop and ghostly high-frequency staccato piano plinks overcoming what would otherwise be a triumphantly building drum track.  Perhaps this record is a narrative of imperfections of body and brain, and that cover art does look somewhat like sperm entering a womb.  These minutiae of meaning are, ultimately, left graciously up to the listener – Girard is just too polite.


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