Written by Gordon Beck
Bored of the formulaic approach of most modern EDM and the lack of invention in rock music post 2010? Then enter the band Meule. Despite a high production value, the band seems virtually unknown, with little information online and only amassing 7,000 monthly Spotify listeners. But a recent appearance on KEXP last month seems to be bringing in more attention. This is well deserved. The performance consists almost entirely of songs from their debut album and their only release, which came out in 2021. With this fresh buzz, it presents itself appropriate to match the record with a fresh review.
Meule hails from France, consisting of members Valentine Pedler, Léo Kapes, and Dorris Biayenda. They can best be described as a seamless blend of classic electronica and the more psychedelic and grooving explorations of krautrock. Pedler handles nearly half of the sonic spectrum, managing the pulsing and chirping synth tones and occasionally whipping out some tasteful guitar licks. Kapes and Biayenda on the other hand are the backbone of the band, covering the rhythm section over two separate drum sets. You read that right. A three piece act with two drummers. On stage the trio is set up like some kind of electric behemoth, the drummers facing each other and branching out like legs from Pedler who serves as the beast’s head. He stands stationed at an impressive tower of modular synths adorned in patch cables and nobs.
Sonically, the band sounds largely electronic but ever performative. Nothing here sounds strictly programmed or laid out in midi. During their live performances there is no sign of a laptop or DAW to keep things in check. Everything is kept together simply by the artists all facing each other and locking in their grooves, usually off of some kind of sequencer laid out and manipulated by Pedler. It is reminiscent of the early acts pioneering the electronic genre like Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra, pulsating their way across the soundwaves of the 70s before the concept of a digital audio workstation was even invented.
Speaking of that time period, the other major element of the band’s sound lies in the groove centric space of krautrock. Rhythm and groove is all important here, as one would expect from a band with two drummers. Every song on the band’s debut is laid out first and foremost on a repeating drum beat that often carries its way through nearly the whole track. But while repetitive, they never lack in life or energy. The consistency allows for songs to build and evolve while remaining head bobbing, often danceable, and always driving.
The album is, for lack of a better term, fun. Everything is jumping with color and life, largely thanks to Pedler’s expressive contributions. The band sounds psychedelic like similar krautrock based acts such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, or Ohsees, but also layered with the playful and joyous sonic exploration of a band like Battles. This is reflected in the album art featuring a cartoon landscape sprinkled with many outlandish characters that look like they belong in a show like Adventure Time or the late-night programming of Adult Swim. Production wise the band sounds excellent. Mixing is clear and precise and brings to life Pedler’s color over the thunder of the drummers. While listening, it all brings to mind imagery of a child fervently exploring the world of finger paints on their parent’s walls while a sibling rocks out on their drum set in the next room.
The album opens with the track “Flush,” appropriately featuring one of Pedler’s sequencers that immediately brings to mind electronica of old as mentioned prior, but then builds and evolves into a rock track that, while becoming quite heavy, still remains high spirited and charming. A good overview of everything this album has to offer.
Track two, titled “Diois,” enters a marching beat and synths similar to a track like “Atlas” off of Battles’ debut. This song brings in an early and prominent vocal performance by Kapes who occasionally sings through the whole record. This is the band’s weakest point, as the vocals can be a bit hit or miss. Live, Kapes sings while playing drums, which is impressive how consistent he sounds as the band’s only vocalist, besides some sparse harmonies by Pedler. However, his performances are a bit one note, strained, and lack more expression someone like, say, Stu Mackenzie can provide. This can contrast heavily with how lively everything else sounds.
Track three, “Getaway,” has Kapes’s best vocals on the whole tracklist, featuring a great hook and lyrics rejecting the monotony of meaningless work. Very fitting of the band’s playful nature. It also has one of Pedler’s most fun guitar licks kicking the track off and ends with a mosh worthy breakdown.
“Rand Lover” at track four is an excellent showcase of the band’s rhythm and use of syncopation while track five sees more quirky lyrics about what sounds like a toxic lover taking ownership of everything in Kapes’s life, even having his “penis in a box.”
The final track, “Sans Les Mains,” has one of the most interesting drum grooves across the 30-minute run time, involving stabbing snare hits synched up with Pedler’s guitar that are then intercut with more spacey vocals. The album then ends on a sonic meltdown of synths and drums colliding.
Overall the album lands on nearly every mark, maintaining a very fun listen despite the repetition. There is little information about the band’s future plans, but with their appearance on KEXP featuring a song not yet released, as well as similar live performances put out by their label Figure Libres, could this mean new music is on the horizon? If you like a more unconventional listen whose experimentation doesn’t compromise on the fun dripping at its seems, then Meule is an act to keep an eye on.