On ‘Meditations I,’ Foxtrott stumbles sonically but finds solid footing in self-reflection

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

For Marie-Hélène Delorme, known professionally as Foxtrott, her latest EP, Meditations I, marks a transition.

While the upbeat electronic melodies of the Montreal-based artist’s first full-length album, A Taller Us, aligns the LP with synth-pop, Meditations I adopts a decidedly more subdued tone. Instead of emphasizing catchy beats and simplistic lyricism, the songs on this EP feature the breathy vocals, sonic texture and contemplative nature of dream pop. This makes sense considering Foxtrott’s objective when creating each album or EP — while the animated beats of A Taller Us reflect the musician’s own anxiety as she came into adulthood, Foxtrott put together Meditations I as a meditative reflection on the relationship between individual identity and the outside world. In fact, Delorme developed the tracks on the EP during a solitary retreat to Oaxaca, Mexico — time that she used for both artistic creation and introspection.

Meditations I begins unobtrusively with the gentle opening pipe progression of “Intuition.” With resounding, raspy vocals, Foxtrott calls for guidance in transcending her zones of comfort — “Let the waves come to me, rearrange and free what I’ve been holding my whole life,” she croons over synthetic measures. The lyricism feels intimate and true to Foxtrott’s personal desires for individual growth, while the melody of the music draws the listener in with catchy beats that make you want to tap along. Yet when paired, the tempos of voice and instrumentals pair rather clumsily, resulting in dissonances throughout the song that negate its potential for immersion.

Though “Intuition” at times stumbles over itself sonically, “Wait” strides forward confidently and beautifully. Though designated as the middle track of the EP, “Wait” is unmistakably the highlight of Meditations I. The melody showcases Foxtrott at her finest — neither overly simplistic nor convoluted, and catchy yet not overwhelming, “Wait” is musically on par with “Shaky Hands,” one of the musician’s most popular tracks from A Taller Us. In “Wait,” Foxtrott has created a track worthy of both blasting from the speakers of a club and undergoing careful analysis from individual listeners. After all, the song deals with complex emotions and yearnings, considering the love and passion that compels us toward certain paths in life, while acknowledging that such movement often requires us to leave some things behind.

Moreover, not only does Foxtrott construct and record “Wait” in a sonically pleasing fashion, but she also incorporates elements into the song that make it interesting and clever. For instance, about halfway through, the melody pauses for a few seconds before resuming, momentarily tricking the listener into thinking the piece complete. In other words, the listener must wait for the music to resume, just as Foxtrott describes her own waiting throughout the piece.

Foxtrott closes the EP with “Where Love Abounds,” a piece so breathy and short that discerning the musician’s words proves challenging. Though the melody occasionally finds its groove, undulating seductively, its abrupt start-stop pattern at times registers as unnecessarily jarring instead of masterful. Nonetheless, Foxtrott’s careful layering of her own husky vocals grants “Where Love Abounds” an ethereal, dreamlike quality reminiscent of dream pop masters such as the Cocteau Twins.

As a whole, Meditations I pays testament to Delorme’s growth as an individual and as an artist, reflecting a certain maturity and willingness to tackle vague and formidable subjects less apparent on A Taller Us.

Though admittedly imperfect, Meditations I reminds us of a lesser-explored realm of the potential of musical expression. Here, Foxtrott advances music as a space of introspection, as opposed to solely a consideration of how we relate to others. And with the musician set to release the two other parts of this artistic project — the second and third Meditations — we can only wait (to quote Foxtrott herself) and see how she will elaborate upon this portrayal as music for healing self-reflection.

Ryan Tuozzolo covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @_rtuo.