Mirages au Futur Verre-brisé
Montreal’s Automelodi trade in silky smooth synthpop which has proven to be rather adaptable over the past ten years. From warm and resonant analog washes to sharp throwback new wave to nimble coldwave workouts, frontman Xavier Paradis (here aided by newcomer Dillon Steele and longtime collaborator Simon Grenier-Poirier) has always kept things both varied and melodic to Automelodi’s benefit. Third LP Mirages au Futur Verre-brisé is certainly the band’s most ambitious work yet, rife with inventive pitch-bends, percussion, and track constructions, sometimes used to excellent ends, sometimes to more baffling ones.
Pitched toms and other percussive elements flutter across Mirages‘ run-time with aplomb, adding colour and texture to the immediate grooves of “Toujours De Jamais (Hors-Temps)” and plenty of other tracks. Often, these elements kick off more traditional synth arrangements, creating a shimmering playground for the vocals of Paradis and Xeno & Oaklander’s Liz Wendelbo on “Les Métros Disparus”. On other songs, though, those extra tones draw attention from ostensibly lead synths or Paradis’ vocals, which are generally content to stay out of the spotlight and smolder in the wings with a restrained croon. The result is tasteful, well-produced, and ultimately groovy tracks which sometimes lack a core refrain or melody.
This isn’t to say that Mirages is bereft of hooks or memorable passages. Check the ascending vaporwave synth-stutters of “Art Contraire” or the vaguely Ultravox-esque bridge of “Feux Rouges, Châteaux Brillants” to see just how much detail and appeal Automelodi can cram into their tracks. And everything comes together wonderfully on second-half highlight “Angoisses D’Orléac” where a hushed and cooing verse builds tension perfectly for a downright funky chorus to slam in, with vocals, rhythm, and melody all driving forward in wonderful accord.
For all of its cleanly defined sounds and constantly smearing synth colours, Mirages sometimes falls victim to its own attention to immediate details, getting lost in the particulars and missing an overarching principle. But make no mistake, Paradis & co. have been at this long enough that they know what they’re doing; it’s entirely likely that the fractured, atomized nature of the record could be in keeping with its titular “broken glass future”. Even if it doesn’t offer the sort of automatically generated melodies you might expect given the project’s name, Mirages au Futur Verre-brisé is a showcase of (slightly warped) synth production.