Benoit Pioulard's meditative ambient pop appeals to the pleasure centers | Bleader

Benoit Pioulard's meditative ambient pop appeals to the pleasure centers

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Benoit Pioulard
  • courtesy of Kranky Records
  • Benoit Pioulard
The recently released Hymnal (Kranky) is the fourth album Oregonian Thomas Meluch has released under the alias Benoit Pioulard, and while I'm sure that I've listened briefly to some of its predecessors they apparently didn't stick with me. But this new one has insistently triggered my pleasure centers if not exactly lodged itself into my memory, registering its lovely mix of murky ambience and subterranean pop craft that channels Nick Drake via Elliott Smith. Benoit Pioulard returns to Chicago for a show Wednesday night at the Empty Bottle.

Some songs revel in relatively full band treatments like the acoustic guitar-strummed "Hawkeye," where Meluch's gentle multitracked voice is surrounded by reverb-heavy piano, sparse hand percussion, and sweet calliopelike arpeggios spinning in the distance, while a couple of others are thickened by the stark cello lines of Felix (aka Lucinda Chua). The melodies are pretty, but it's ultimately the soft-focus timbre and the chill vibe that makes the music so inviting. The wordless, ambient pieces are thankfully thick with sonic detritus—as if the music had been dug out of some tomb or retrieved from a cobwebbed attic—whether it's some kind of phantom tape hiss or environmental noise (seagulls emerge at the end of "Gospel"), but it surrounds the slowly undulating long tones like an extravagantly coarse wrapping paper. Below you can check out the video for the lovely "Margin."

Today's playlist:

King Tuff, King Tuff (Sub Pop)
International Trio, Donkere Golven (W.E.R.F.)
Various artists, Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up (Numero Group)
Conte Candoli & Lou Levy, West Coast Wailers (Atlantic, Japan)
Antares, Liberson: Tashi Quartet and Reynolds: Shadowed Narrative (New Focus)

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