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Benoit Pioulard, "Hymnal"

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Benoit Pioulard's latest release makes a subdued, melancholy journey through watery pop. Peerless at his best moments, Hymnal is very nearly nothing but, showcasing a keenness for murky left-field songwriting that ought to go nowhere. Yet it all feels very direct and focused, very familial. Thomas Meluch probes discomfort, harmony, and unique production techniques to assemble music which flows naturally even if it takes no easy path to be heard.

Kranky

The last few seconds of “Mercy,” the first song on Hymnal, ring out with tape-damaged beauty, heralding a vague but pleasant finale to an album which has just started. This is the way Meluch carves into the first moments of a new release. Hymnal digs deep into a hole and stays there; “Mercy” plays like a breath of air before a long dive, with “Hawkeye” and “Excave” drifting in and out of subsonic echoes and through slow waves of longing. Thomas Meluch captures a space in folk music (in its augmented present form) that almost resembles electronica, where everything is sustained and overt repetition earns more than single gestures.

The difference is this is purely bucolic, and rhythmic but soft, and laced with long drones, many of which serve as intermediaries between the more structured songs. “Gospel” is a gorgeous slow cycle of metallic chords that never aim for sublimity despite the name, etching the short range of notes into stone over five minutes. In excluding the indulgence that such a deep, endless pool of sound should spur him to, Meluch lets the audience fill in those gaps. It's very simple, but very clever, and it plays perfectly to his already well-established preference for muddled obscurity and shrouded purpose. "Litiya" holds on a strange chord in its final moments, an unwelcome oddity that melts into the bleary catharsis of "Knell." Each ambient part follows after poppier songs not as a counterpoint but a complement; it's almost as if Meluch's contemplation begs to be intoned vocally and instrumentally as well.

After releasing a number of sparse drone pieces back in 2011, it's not hard to see Hymnal as a way of capitalizing on those stems, treating them as a base inspiration for some further sound experiments. In this case, Hymnal is a plunge into the ocean, a demonstration of how tranquility can lead to ennui, or passion for something unknown. Drone and folk intertwine in mellifluous, unique ways, but never stagnate, because Hymnal shows that not using space is not necessarily wasting it.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 24 March 2013 22:41  


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