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Music Consumption: Melochrome
12/09/2003 Melochrome: This Is Motion

This Is Motion is flat-out gorgeous, is what it is. A slab of pure beauty, a sequence of surprisingly pleasant surprises. I've been way into this one of late. Melochrome is a Chicago band composed of Pramod Tummala (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Thomas Stanley (drums, guitars), Darlene Poole (vocals, bass, keyboards), and Justin Mayer (keyboards). The lineup seems to suggest that they'd be a bit heavy on the keyboards, but no--while the keyboards (particularly Fender Rhodes) are an important component of the sound, there's a lot of space in this music, and everything falls into place: the roomy reverb on the drums, the deep, restrained bass, the light touches of guitar, and the keys themselves. And there's still plenty of room for the fine, understated vocals of Pramod and harmonies by Darlene.

Every choice made on this disc is a good one. While I'm not familiar enough with traditional Indian vocals to accept straight off the sample that's in the lead-off track, "An Afterthought," and found myself skipping it for a while, it now works just fine for me, and I'm hard-pressed to hear the friction that bothered me at first. The second track, "So We're Finally Moving On," starts pretty, gets even better with Pramod's vocal, and reaches a slow climax with the aid of dub-flavored trumpet and mellophone courtesy of Wendell von Brenner.

Surprisingly, the intro to "Catalina Girls" is even more inviting and spacious, with a fine interleaving of keyboard, bass, and drums--and again, it gets better from there with the vocals on the verses, and guitar and horn touches on the bridges. Man. As if this isn't enough, "Seaside Instrumental" ups the ante even further, with gorgeous liquid keyboard burbles, clean guitar chords, poignant bass, some light electronica touches in a noise/cymbal layer, and Rhodes over the top.

"Music for Motion" takes us back to vocal territory, and adds a bit more guitar, along with a lovely muted trumpet to the horn section. Another fine vocal from Pramod here, showing him to have a very good sense of vocal melody (if that hadn't been apparent with the melodies elsewhere). "Stereo City" brings in a bit more danceable active drumming, a moving and lyrically inventive chorus, and some additional tasty effects. There's a simplicity to the music here that really works for me--they're taking what they're doing, stripping it down, and showing that it works just as well as the denser arrangements.

"A Forethought" is yet another instrumental, which builds an extremely cool, reflective trip-hop atmosphere. Nice interplay of keys, bass, light guitar, sparse effects, and drums on this one. "Out Late" is the last tune, another song of simplicity that again works its magic well. The only thing left to do is hit Play again, and believe me, I have--lots of times.

According to the Melochrome site, they're on hiatus for a while with some members moving out of town, but here's hoping they can work remotely. This is a band that deserves to be heard.

Full disclosure: Pramod (with producer--though not of this record--Barry Phipps) dropped by my Chicago show this past summer, and gave me a copy of this disc. Even so, this is a fine, fine CD, and your life is impoverished in a big way if you don't check it out.

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