album composed in 7 days in august 2012 (except track 10)
With impressive regularity, a fresh, new Melodium set surfaces, with the time elapsing between releases just long enough to allow Laurent Girard to cobble together another collection of melodic, keyboard-based songs. In fact, in this case he needed no more than seven days (in August 2012) to compose all but one of Kansva Work's thirteen pieces. He dubs the material he creates under the Melodium name “music for sadly happy people”—a not inaccurate way of capturing the particular way his music straddles joy and melancholy, often within the same song. On Kansva Work, which touches down in multiple stylistic zones and slightly broadens the sonic palette one associates with Melodium, the expected piano and acoustic guitar sounds are present but so too are synthesizers and idiosyncratic beat structures.
Girard's his usual unfussy, to-the-point self—only one of the pieces pushes beyond the three-minute mark (the six-minute closer “Nonreal”),—and the music is as spirited and playful as always. In many respects a quintessential exemplar of the Melodium style, “Bidual” overlays a jaunty rhythm base with off-beat guitar figures and a single-note piano melodic line. “Euclidean” and “Fibonacci” likewise have Girard's fingerprints all over them, with each reflecting that mix of sweetness and sadness in their respective gestures. There are surprises, though, one being that vocals are wholly excluded. Downplaying acoustic sounds, “Dimensions” gives its focus to a darker percussive and almost industrial-synthetic aesthetic, while an unexpected spacier dimension emerges near the end of “Googol.” “Lemma” is another vibes-laced oddity seemingly beamed in from Jupiter; by comparison, acoustic bass, piano, and drums lend “Midpoint” a much earthier feel.
But even when a different instrumental sound is incorporated, such as when Girard uses synthesizer instead of piano during “Hypotenuse,” it's not enough to hide the Melodium voice. There's a “blink and you'll miss it” quality to the album when every song (but one) arrives and disappears soon after, an effect exacerbated by the fact that its baker's dozen weigh in at a svelte thirty-seven-minute total—not a bad thing, however, when the word bloat could be applied to so many other recordings.
Laurent Girard from Angers, France has been making for years now, some of the most intense, emotionally charged toytronica we have ever heard. His music has been melodic, minimal (but not always), melodramatic, but most importantly unique, in the sense that each one of us is a unique being, and the music of Melodium comes directly from the heart. A heart that seems to be broken, not necessarily because of the lack of romantic love, but due to injustice, and the lack of meaning that troubles any thinking and feeling human being.
Girard in his latest album, The Island, experimented with distorted vocals, but in Kansva Work, lo-fi instrumentals make their return, which makes the artist’s intentions more ambiguous (it’s not easy to know what the music is about when there are no lyrics). That however works to his advantage as he has the opportunity to play more with tonality and rhythm, producing music that is less melodic, with more bleeps and blimps than usual, but with the occasional acoustic instruments producing a more organic feel and preventing him from entering space-out territory (at least not as often as he would otherwise). Melodium’s uneasy listening retains the fragility of his previous recordings, but is somewhat more cinematic, with a wider scope. If you are familiar with Melodium’s past work (and if you are not, I would highly recommend that you become), you would recognize that fragility not only in the more quiet guitar pieces, but even in the album’s more robotic moments. His music, acoustic, unconventional, and greatly influenced by both the innovative spirit of ’90s electronica and the resourcefulness of the lo-fi movement, still has all those elements even if they make their appearance in a more subtle manner this time.
This has been a gradual process for Girard as his work from album to album, with some notable exceptions, has become more quiet. One could say that youthful angst has been replaced with wisdom that comes with age, but that doesn’t seem to be true for this particular artist, as the angst is still here, the same way the wisdom had always been there. What seems to have happened instead is that he has begun to make music more for the sake of making music, rather than use it as a vehicle to express his inner self, in the sense that the goal is for the music to develop in ways that will trigger artistic discussion rather than emotion. Or I could be completely wrong, but that will be up to the listeners of this album to decide for themselves. (John Kontos)