There are times when music reaches beneath the surface, and paints a picture in our minds. Thomas Meluch has been releasing material since he was 17 under the moniker Benoît Pioulard, and developing a sound that brings the willing to vivid places he has created. His latest album Hymnal is one that feels like an old tale. One where Meluch takes the listener through desolate lands and over ghostly mountains, and all accompanied by his acoustic guitar and textured outcrops of beautiful sound that reach into vastness.
“Mercy,” brings the album in with a joyous electric accordion sound that might as well have come from an old Casiotone. Meluch’s tender vocals hang over this as the sound builds into a glowing bright wall. “Mercy” tapers off and gives way to a damaged sample of distant piano, leading a listener by the hand into “Hawkeye.” The piano remains on “Hawkeye,” following quietly behind, like some sort of curious carrion; one who continues to follow throughout Hymnal.
The whole album has a feel like an old Western film, where eerie songs turn into grey, jagged peaks of mountains and tracks of only dreamy ambience are fog clinging to the mountain and rolling along the countryside.
The dark and lofty cowboy tune “Reliquary” would be a morose march up that gravel mountain road and colorful swells of cymbals are apprehensive looks from behind Meluch’s down-tipped hat before his guitar sings and waves with tremolo.
“Homily” enters the album with sounds of water rushing and distant and looming piano comes back, this time slowly dancing with a standup bass over the water. As ones ears drink from the water, the album continues to head toward the precipice, the carrion circles overhead.
This album was given as a hymnal and “Gospel” is its central hymn. A beautiful electric drone hums in the distance while violins patiently come in, and the mountain peak is revealed as fog drifts by. As the calming richness of “Gospel” also drifts away, a ringing silence is left.
In “Litiya,” rich violins cut through lo-fi guitar, and a chamber-like tone makes everything reverberate. Violins and the purr of a reed organ rise at the end of “Litiya,” and slide away into “Knell” with the sound of steeple bells ringing.
The journey seems to end here, at the top of the blue and grey mountain that is Hymnal, and distant voices seem to be softly speaking behind crackling that begins to resemble a campfire.
Our epilogue would then be “Foxtail,” which lays the album to rest as gloriously as it began: with flittering, degraded tones and Meluchs’ gentle vocals sharing the last thoughts. Hymnal is organic and whole, and Meluch as Pioulard’s work has shown this.
Benoît Pioulard – Hymnal tracklist: