Hymnal is the fourth kranky album by Thomas Meluch under his musical alias Benoit Pioulard, following Précis (2006), Temper (2008) and Lasted (2010). It was written and recorded throughout a year spent in southeastern England and on the European mainland, during which the ubiquity of religious iconography and grandiose cathedrals became an unexpected muse.
Raised as a Catholic but never especially pious, Meluch drew on this aspect of social history as the basis for Hymnal's 12 chapters. He notes a particular preoccupation with the ways that faith offers a sense of solace and belonging in an existence that inherently provides none, framed in a context of tradition, ritual and the notion of the eternal.
Themes aside, Hymnal contains some of Meluch's most expansive instrumental works ("Knell", "Gospel") and fully realized pop compositions ("Hawkeye", "Reliquary", "Margin"), making for a rich and dynamic long-playing arc. Also featured are string arrangements by kranky label mate Felix and guitar work from ambient maestro Kyle Bobby Dunn.
NB: The album's cover depicts the dessicated interior of a centuries-old tree on the estate of surrealist Edward James in West Sussex; it was felled be an invasive, parasitic black fungus while still alive and verdant.