Melodium is a name that implies a strong sense of developed harmonies and rich textures, the sound of melodic intervals becoming the process of creation in real time to form songs. Instead the French born artist drops an album filled with isolationist traditions and intense meditation, more focused on the exertion aspect of art than the end result of birthing a notion. Backed by label Audio Dregs in this release, Melodium’s approach on The Island serves the title all too well and leaves a sense of space as constructed as it is expansive.

Part of what can make The Island feel more like a space than a sound is how even the busiest track comes off as a minimal exploration of first takes and editing those versions. ‘Supervacuum’ starts off hybridizing soap opera drama with Björkian harp affairs, slowly and majestically fading in effected guitars and sends to alter the song superficially. But the loop itself remains unchanged until a piano restates it with some variation in both timing due to what sounds like human and technical error (damn you, MIDI sync!). Had the last notes been quantized and forced to hit metronomic markings, it would feel mechanical and lustless. Instead there is a sense of cold affection that carries through each track, bringing the same detached emotion that the most melancholic folk music can thrive off of. These instrumental tracks rely on single passages and loops, a musical grid of sorts, to construct its limitations and phase space. It’s when the human voice is brought to the fore that Melodium succeeds, letting the disaffected but clear delivery in his accented English convey lines like, “You can tell me you can be happy in this fucking world, that it’s so hard,” with an offhandedness that makes such moments disarming. Even at its most biting and depressed, the clear and nuanced diction paired with the narcotized pacing is so smoothly placed that it becomes almost soothing. Of course when an album begins with a track titled ‘Lacrymae,’ there is an aura of sadness to be expected, and, pervasive as the air of sadness is, this smoothness defines the album’s overall sound in light of its own mood.

At times Melodium’s own habits tend to get the better of him, leading to uneven results. ‘Gaisma’ aims for the Byrne + Eno school of songwriting but hits the amateur YouTube school instead. ‘The Feeble Light’ and ‘The Outside’ have the same vocal cadence, but the former mercifully lacks a piano track that feels tacked on and poorly performed. What succeeded in ‘Supervacuum’ almost utterly destroys the musical coda of ‘The Outside,’ and the lead in to ‘Gaisma’ starts off fine enough but degrades in less than 30 seconds. It’s another worn trope, but this time not musically but timing-wise, as this is another one of those lopsided releases that contains about 65% great or good tracks and some chaff. The creative process for this hybridized form can be thought of as one of self-refinement and redaction, the removal of superfluities on a whole then applied to an individualized focus. This dirtied lens has distorted the aim and deprived some songs of the engrossing production allowed to others.

It’s the end result of a plot with no postscript resolution, a bunch of loose ends for better or worse. A frayed tapestry of sound that would be closer to Luigi Russolo’s Futurism than Bon Iver’s stripped down and pained romanticism, Melodium’s music is undeniably forward thinking but remains flawed. What comfort there is to be found is usually the result of error’s warmth, and the otherwise mechanized creative-machine process is as affecting as it is distant. To listen to The Island is to maroon oneself within the minor, the letting go to the coastal eddy and the smoothing of space – the act of relieving duty for the want of distance. It’s worth the travel, even if the postcards all suck.