Mellow Perfect Colors

[Atmosphériques; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: electronica, French pop, lounge, psychedelic-electro-pop, prog
Others: Air, Beck, White Town, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd

In a time when music aficionados have been forced to turn to experimental esoterica for stimulation in an attempt to escape the torpor of the contemporary pop scene, Mellow's Perfect Colors is a gift from the Gods. Despite the blatant Francophobia, which is, idiotically, the order of the day in the good ole U.S. of A., there is absolutely no denying that there is some wonderful music coming out of France these days.

Superficially, it would be easy to compare this record to fellow countrymen Air, or perhaps Daft Punk, but this new Mellow record is more complex, musically, than any of Air's work (and Air's catalogue is a magnificent body of work in and of itself). There exists on Perfect Colors the distinctive presence and formula of contemporary French electronic pop with string arrangements, acoustic guitar strumming, and vintage synthesizer sounds. But this is a multi-faceted work that is complex on several different levels, alternating between sheer beauty and a technical proficiency that is quite astounding. Perfect Colors is a confounding record in that it continuously veers off in a variety of different musical directions, yet manages to gel together into a cohesive whole that somehow works.

Vocalist Patrick Woodcock's voice is at times similar to Syd Barrett's, particularly on the song "Goodbye." Woodcock's exploration and extrapolation on the human condition, "In the Meantime," which calls to mind the naïve beauty and simplicity of Syd Barrett's earlier, better songs, is simply brilliant. The Beatlesque "Love Ain't the Answer" is an imposing, melodic, and über-complex track that, though it betrays its obvious prog-rock influences, remains a truly original and epic pop song. Even the ubiquitous "hidden track" on Perfect Colors, "A Place for Meditation," is for some reason not a gratuitous throwaway (as "hidden tracks" usually are). In fact, I believe it's one of the best pieces of neo-progressive rock since Radiohead's stunning "Lucky," from their contemporary rock opus Ok Computer.

Mellow borrow the motif from Pachelbel's "Canon in D" on the sadly gorgeous "Drifting Out of Sight," a beautiful, wistful song that somehow fills the listener with a melancholic sense of unfulfilled longing. The album's final track, the orchestral version of "Drifting Out of Sight," simultaneously gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes, somehow conveying the raw emotional power of Pachelbel's "Canon," the sophistication of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," and the soaring majesty of Beethoven's symphonies.

"Engaging" is a word that does not do this album any justice; rather, Perfect Colors commands the listener's attention. It is an astonishing pop record that bodes well for a promising year of music in 2004.

1. Perfect Colors
2. Fantastic
3. Love Ain't the Answer
4. Goodbye
5. Drifting Out of Sight
6. It Was Raining
7. Where the Flowers Don't Grow
8. Between the Lines
9. Going Downtown
10. Track 10
11. In the Meantime
12. Drifting Out of Sight (Orchestral Version)
13. A Place for Meditation