Psychedelic Journey

Photo by Fiona Torre

“It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.”

“Moodoïd is a laboratory project,” wrote songwriter and bandleader Pablo Padovani in a recent email. “I want to have fun and make music just like my eclectic tastes. The EP [a dazed and festive four tracks released last year] was a presentation. Now this is the first trip. We discover the different facets of Moodoïd.”

It’s a trip in both senses of the word—an omnivorous journey, moving outward from Paris to embrace a global cross-section of sounds; and a psychedelic experience, with outlandish imagery and uncanny music. Moodoïd’s first full-length, Le monde Möö, embodies its title. For nearly fifty minutes, we are brought into Padovani’s weird world, a sonic and visual wonderland. Perhaps one of the band’s music videos from the EP gives some indication of that vision:

In the album’s opening track, “Les garçons veulent de la magi” (The boys want magic), we get a tour of Möö, as Padovani whispers incantations atop an electronic shimmer. The music is at once laidback and tightly constructed, but consistently gregarious.

“I think you may like it if you like childhood, sex, dreams and surrealism,” Padovani told me. “It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.” That perspective is audible on the wide-eyed “La Lune,” in which his female bandmates coo an ode to the moon. The album’s soundscape, however, is broad; prog-rock riffs flit in and out, adding an edge to the luminescence (the ’70s French prog band Gong was a major inspiration).

Where did this bizarre world originate? Though Padovani is only 24, his artistic voice feels fully developed. He is best known as the guitarist in Melody’s Echo Chamber, another psychedelic French pop band; and he draws inspiration from his father, the established saxophonist Jean-Marc Padovani, who can be heard on the album. He studied cinema and has a day job directing short films and music videos, and that visual acuity informs the iconography of his music. “Moodoïd arose from the need to express a lot of emotions,” he wrote. “It was a lonely time, I started writing full songs, and I told myself that I had to sing those every day if necessary. I wanted to share this experience with girls. So I looked for musicians all over Paris.”

Photo by Fiona Torre

Padovani cited influences as wide as the Brecker Brothers and the Dirty Projectors. Inspired by the writing process of Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, he wrote out instrumental parts for all of his bandmates. “I was able to invite people I greatly admire and the studio was a thoroughfare where we took the time to choose the right sounds. All the songs were ready, we just had to sublimate.” Nicholas Vernhes, who has worked with indie bigwigs like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, produced and mixed the album, except for “Yes & You.” This track marks the return of Kevin Parker, who shaped the original Moodoïd sound on the first EP. “Yes & You” begins as a straightforward but heartfelt love anthem, closely whispered atop strumming guitars. Halfway through it takes on a punkish roar, with Padovani’s bandmates snarling in the background. It makes a perfect transition to the rapid-fire hits of “Bongo Bongo Club.”

Then there are the album’s fantastical and jazzy moments, like the opening of “Les chemins de traverse,” a thoroughly Sun Ra minute of wordless, meandering vocals and rustling saxophones. “I am very inspired by the surrealist movement,” Padovani said. And “Heavy Metal Be Bop 2”—the track title speaks volumes—begins with a classic free jazz freak-out before settling into a thick groove.

The Moodoïd world might be best represented in “Les oiseaux,” with its sinewy instrumentals, chanting voices atop tricky meters, and straight-ahead blues sung by Padovani.

“The disc is a walk in the world Möö. This is a soft world made of cream hills and Turkish delight mountains. There are also Camembert mattresses and waterfalls of wine. This is a great, epic adventure,” Padovani wrote. “Les oiseaux” is richly textured and concludes with a guitar fade-out that is best described as, well, trippy.