Mélat Truly Rises to the Occasion on Move Me II: The Present

by Nick Hanover


“Rising” is a term with many connotations in music. We think of artists rising to success, of their voices rising octaves, raising spirits. Mélat is an artist uniquely situated to personify rising in all its forms, particularly this year as increased local media coverage led into a number of breakout perfomances at SXSW in support of her new album Move Me II: The Present, a sequel to her previous collaboration with producer Jansport J. But with her airy voice and heavenly style, it feels more accurate to say Mélat isn’t rising to a new status so much as she’s lifting all of us up closer to her level.

You can feel that in Jansport J’s approach to the production on Move Me II, where Mélat’s lighter than air melodies float on warm gusts of shimmering keyboards and gently playful percussion. “Push” sets the tone early on, J providing an uplifting beat comprised of chicken scratch guitar and glassy synths as Mélat’s vocal shifts between low and raspy and high and angelic on the verses, the chorus a simple but powerful high register exhalation of the title. “Push” is a relatively minimalist pop track, remarkable in how effortlessly it conveys Mélat’s joy in creating beauty.

Even when the album skews melancholy, that dedication to beauty is front and center, particularly as it relates to the black experience. “Beautiful Black Boy” is the most obvious representation of this, the music erotic and simmering, far less jovial than most of the album, drawing out more of the tragedy in Mélat’s voice as she pays tribute to black bodies that are far too often brutalized instead of celebrated. It’s a natural follow-up to earlier track “Worries (Revelation 8-3),” where Mélat states that “It’s a world against us/But I don’t worry about your love,” though she does worry about what may happen if a son is born from that love only  to one day be struck down “By a coward/Dressed like a cop,” with his “Finger on the trigger/Cuz he figure that he gonna walk.”

It’s these thoughts that perhaps motivate the Afrofuturist elements of Move Me II, as Mélat follows in the footsteps of Sun Ra and his 1973 opus Space is the Place, looking up and dreaming of rising far above commercial success to the stars themselves. But as the somber and galactic “Co-Pilot” shows, Mélat is too dedicated to her original home to not look back, warning a lover “I got some bad news/Things ain’t been the same back on Earth, baby” after they land their ship back on the planet and she investigates what’s happened since they’ve been gone.

Rather than let this sentimentality turn her into a pillar of salt, though, Mélat finds strength in it, declaring on the sultry ballad “The Now” that “The future ain’t promised/And the past has abandoned us/And the only thing we can trust/Is what’s in front of us.” This is why Mélat is an artist who defines the concept of rising as a communal experience, whose “worry if I don’t blow up fast” isn’t because of too much inner ambition but because she wants the best for those around her here and now, in the present, not in some vague potential future. That’s a powerful motivation but it’s also an authentically inspiring one, the sort of sentiment that brings power to a performer’s voice and lyrics in a way savvy commercialization never can.

While that quality has always been present in Mélat’s music, Move Me II: The Present feels like the most potent and pure distillation of it. Mélat has never sounded as driven and capable as she does here, and the near psychic communication between her and Jansport J on a musical front further allows this album to shine in a way their previous work only hinted at. Mélat has done her part as a rising artist, now it’s on us to rise to the occasion with her.

Mélat plays Stubb’s on Friday, April 6th

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Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover