Benoît Pioulard

Sonnet

Thomas Meluch (a.k.a Benoît Pioulard) has made a career out of mastering many domains. His work moves from spectral folk songs that fold into non-lyrical ambient compositions to unrestrained beauty of ultra-HD ambient-drone played through rusty, lo-fidelity radios. On Sonnet, Meluch steps into 2015 with a masterfully self-assured album that digs deep into themes of  compositional restraint and the unintentional harmony of everyday living. 

Much of the inspiration for Sonnet was taken from the recording and observation of everyday sounds that Meluch would make field recordings of. The wonderful thing about that sentence is that none of those field recordings make their way into this record in any sort of recognizable way. Instead, Meluch interprets these ostensibly non-musical sources into his compositions. Suddenly we hear it. The noisy marsh at dusk home to thousands of insects, the random industrial ambience, birds taking flight, busy summer meadows and the lurching, rhythmic churning of an overloaded washing machine. The act of field recording takes a certain kind of personality bent to attribute musicality, or at least tonal significance, to natural and man-made sounds. A sense of connection that is made solely by the observer. 

Sonnet is focused on restraint. A sense of addition through subtraction. By stripping most of the lyrical content out of the record and using no digital equipment, what we have here is an attempt to drill down to the essence of what makes Benoît Pioulard's work stand out amongst so many others we can compare him to. I'm not sure I am totally in command of what this is, but I know, when I hear that weary, far-off sounding guitar line that sounds like it was picked up in some freak aurora borealis time-shift or a unmissable Boards of Canada use of warbling, reverb-drenched tones chopped like rough seas rising in volume and intensity under repeated, simple melodies, I can see Pîoulard's mitts all over it. And that is what makes this album so damn good. The essence is not only there, it is laid bare. It is non-minimal minimalism. Ribs and joints out in clear view for our inspection. No gimmicks. This album sounds like it could be done live at the drop of the hat and still sound impossibly good.

There is a lot of beauty in this record. A lot of that feeling exists right on the edge of sadness and beauty, where you aren't sure if something is so beautiful it makes you sad, or you are sad because it is so beautiful. The name is on the tip of my tongue. No doubt some english major is screaming at their computer or trying to type it into my Chinese-hacked comments section. But there it is. The idea comes from the idea of non-permanence. That all of this beauty can only be grasped for a few seconds before it slips through your hands. That's what I love about this record. Centered around field recordings turned into simple melodies, this record is Meluch's attempt to make those beautiful moments - those fleeting seconds when you recognize a harmony running through everything - last forever. 

Ryan H.

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April 30th, 2015