Benoît Pioulard

The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter

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Over a decade's worth of albums, Thomas Meluch took Benoît Pioulard's music in such wide-ranging directions that, by the time of Sonnet's expansive ambient instrumentals, it seemed unlikely he'd return to the project's folktronic beginnings. However, he does exactly that with The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter, an album title that hints at coming full circle: if Precis was a concise introduction, then these songs are a poignant summary. Benoît Pioulard's music feels lighter and freer than ever, even as it touches on heavy subject matter. Within half an hour, Meluch reflects on life's impermanence ("Narcologue"), the fleeting comforts of vice ("Layette"), and mortality ("A Mantle for Charon") in ways that give Precis' affecting simplicity a greater depth. On songs such as "Perennial Comforts" and the gorgeous "I Walked into the Blackness and Built a Fire," he couples his flair for atmosphere with lyrical storytelling that paints a more complete picture of his world than ever before. Meluch surrounds these deep dives with ambient pieces that are the mainstay of Benoît Pioulard's work -- the breezy album opener is even called "Initials B.P." -- and the interplay of space and texture is lovely as always on "In-the-Vapor" and the velvety final track, "Ruth." Nevertheless, a voice as expressive as Meluch's should be used as much as possible, and his singing is especially welcome after Sonnet; on the lilting "Like There's Nothing Under You," he says as much with his circling harmonies as he does with his poetic words. Indeed, The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter features some of his catchiest songs in some time, from the shimmering "Anchor as the Muse" to "The Sun Is Going to Explode But Whatever It's OK," a brisk singalong for an end-of-the-world campfire. A tenth anniversary is as good a time as any to take stock, but to Meluch's credit, it doesn't feel like he's revisiting the past merely for nostalgia's sake. Instead, adding the clarity of experience to his early work's atmospheric conciseness only makes The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter all the richer.

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