Temper lives up to its name, balancing the cloudy beauty of Benoît Pioulard's music with more form and clarity and melding his folk, pop, and electronic leanings even more seamlessly. Where Précis seemed to drift from song to song depending on which way the wind blew, these songs move of their own volition: "Ragged Tint" opens Temper with shivery, rippling guitars that are much more urgent than any of Pioulard's earlier music. This nervy undercurrent pulls the album in unexpected directions, as when the chords of "Brown Bess" slide up steeply, turning the song from serene to tense. However, Pioulard's melodies are as gentle as ever, and would be lullingly lovely if there wasn't so much surrounding them. Temper's arrangements swirl, flutter, and sparkle like a just-shaken snow globe, setting off "Idyll" and "Ahn"'s crisp pop perfectly. These songs could have appeared just as easily on Précis as they do here, but other tracks move Pioulard's songwriting forward -- often by looking back: the lilting melody and prickly strumming of "A Woolgathering Exodus" have a chamber-folk cast, and "Modèle d'Éclat"'s massed harmonies and dense organ sound beautifully anachronistic. Temper expands on Pioulard's creative sonics as well: "The Loom Pedal"'s textural depth adds to its misty reverie, layering a rainstorm recording over distorted vocals and crystal-clear acoustic guitars. Pioulard is equally gifted at creating uniquely outdoorsy sound worlds as he is at crafting hook-filled songs; Précis' airy interludes were just as vital to the album as its more full-fledged tracks were. Temper has fewer of these pieces, but they're just as effective at giving Pioulard's densely constructed songs room to breathe. "Sweep Generator" and "Cycle Disparaissant" suggest vivid yet blurry images with their whorls of distortion and drones, while "Ardoise"'s watery chimes and chirping frogs are weathered with a patina of static. At times, Temper's focus means it doesn't have quite as much sweetly mysterious atmosphere as Pioulard's earlier work, but when the final track, "Hesperus," evaporates like waking from a dream, it's proof that there are plenty of moments to get lost in here.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares