What’s that line about “difficult” second albums? Reading Melody Prochet’s story, it’s a wonder that ‘Bon Voyage’, the long-awaited follow up to her 2012 self-titled debut, has finally made it into the world. Heartache, disillusionment and her new found fame combined to stifle her creativity and fuel her desire to get away from music; her split from Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, her partner and producer, cost two year’s worth of work alone, the drain on her resources and emotions proving too much of a burden. Then, having finally announced the new record last year on her 30th birthday, it was postponed again, an unspecified “serious accident” leading to surgery and months recovering in hospital.
But now, nearly five-and-a-half years after Prochet first charmed us all her with delightfully hazy psych-pop classics, she’s delivered another enchanting record stuffed with oddities, sweeping drama and immersive textures. The scuzzy, blown-out sounds and warped melodies of her debut have been dialed back, but a little restraint suits her too; it’s fitting that most of ‘Bon Voyage’ was conceived in the forests around Stockholm, places she describes as being “enchanting and heavenly”.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of sadness and pain buried in these songs. On ‘Breath In. Breathe Out’ she sings about being “lost in oblivion” and “Healing slow / Feeling so low” while ‘Desert Horse’, the album’s thematic centerpiece that represents her “difficult life journey”, is a dark, roiling monster partly inspired by Turkish composer Özdemir Erdoğan. The song’s woozy synths and shrieking pipes are the polar opposite to the playful joie de vivre of ‘Bisou Magique’ or ‘Crystallized’, and the sound of someone diving deep into their own psyche, unafraid to confront whatever they find.
It’s this strength that gives ‘Bon Voyage’ a sense of triumph. Prochet has never couched sadness or despair in maudlin melodies or minor chords, and when she does let the sun shine through the gloom the results are intoxicating; ‘Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Niege’ explodes with crystalline, sky-high crescendos, while ‘Cross My Heart’, a song about the pain of separation, chugs by on an irresistible bounce and soaring strings. That she lets the song unwind for nearly seven minutes teases out the sense of optimism – that everything, in the end, is going to work out just fine.
Billing ‘Bon Voyage’ as a “soundtrack to a trip back from the brink” plays up the dramatic nature of its gestation, and Prochet’s personal struggles. But it’s testament to her inner strength that it got made at all, and stands as proof of the human spirit’s resilience. ‘God it’s been so long / There must be some light to come’ she sings on ‘Breathe In. Breathe Out’. Turns out she was right.