Superficial as it can be to judge an album by its artwork, the shimmer and shadow on the cover of Benoît Pioulard's first full-length (and Kranky debut), Précis, aptly depicts the music inside. Like the Enge EP, this is an album full of gorgeous dream pop crossed with laptop electronics (and sometimes, vice versa) that showcases Pioulard's sweet, somewhat drowsy vocals and versatile acoustic guitar playing. However, Précis goes far beyond the EP's scope, embellishing his music with sparkling yet subtle layers of percussion and sound effects that give these songs a dreamy depth. Roughly half of the album consists of delicately crafted songs that are accessible, but never predictable. Précis' melodies are just as creative, and even more memorable, than the textures around them: "Ext. Leslie Park" glides along on a beautifully melancholy, descending melody that's twinned in Pioulard's vocals and guitar, while the fantastic album closer, "Ash into the Sky," is lilting, seemingly effortless, and appropriately weightless. And, while "Triggering Back," "Sous la Plage," and "Together & Down" are all tightly structured songs, they never feel constrained; while they're undeniably catchy, they still have enough mystery and atmosphere to keep listeners guessing. The rest of Précis delves deeper into the abstract, atmospheric side of Pioulard's music, offering up interludes that sound like they were sculpted out of breezes. "Coup de Foudre" builds a vignette out of the static buzz of plugging in an electric guitar and layers on wind chime-like electronics and gentle noise; "Moth Wings" flutters by on echoing pianos; and "Corpus Chant" boasts a harpsichord and a sound effect that sounds like a ball rolling across the floor. These sketches are organic, restful, and integral to Précis, giving some breathing room between the more song-based tracks -- it would almost be too much if everything here was as powerful as the most accessible moments. Précis is a remarkably concise album -- over the course of 37 minutes, Pioulard covers an impressive range of sounds and feelings. More importantly, though, it's also a remarkably accomplished debut: hazy without disappearing into the background, immediately captivating but still full of things to discover on later listens.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares