Toward a Boundless Uncertainty, Sunlit But Shivering
The Very Center Of Its Flame
As Benoît Pioulard, multi-instrumentalist/writer Thomas Meluch combines found sounds, electronics, and bittersweet pop into dreamy songs and contemplative ambient pieces.
On some albums, such as 2006's debut Précis and 2010's Lasted, his more structured compositions dominate; on others, like 2013's Hymnal and 2015's Sonnet, his mastery at sculpting atmospheres prevails. Meluch celebrated the project's tenth anniversary with The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter, which balanced both sides of his music and served as a reminder of his unique skill at bringing these sounds together in natural and complementary ways.
Early in his career, Meluch was a part of the Rattling Wall Collective in Dutch, a loose-knit group of like-minded musicians. He also collaborated on a multimedia piece for the University of Michigan's 2003 Film and Video Studies Association Lightworks Festival. He played with half-a-dozen bands in the area, including his own Esmae, an experimental rock quartet inspired by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky.
When Esmae disbanded in 2005, Meluch concentrated on his work as Benoît Pioulard. He began a series of handmade limited-edition CD-R releases, and late that year the Enge EP was released by Moodgadget. Tracks from the EP also appeared on collections from Astrolab and Ghostly. Kranky released Benoît Pioulard's debut full-length, Précis, a shimmering hybrid of laptop pop and shoegaze, in fall 2006. That winter, he contributed a song to Ghostly International's digitally released EP New Faces, and early in 2007 the Fir single arrived. While working on his second Benoît Pioulard album, Meluch worked with his friend Praveen Sharma on the song "Death as a Man," providing lyrics and vocals; contributed a track to the Moodgadget compilation Expanse at Low Levels; and continued his series of Polaroid photographs. A digital re-release of the Enge EP arrived in 2008, as well as Songs Spun Simla, a six-track collaboration between Sharma and Meluch. Temper arrived that fall with a more tightly structured sound than previous Pioulard releases. The 7" releases Lee and Flocks followed in 2008 and 2009.
For his third Kranky full-length, 2010's Lasted, Meluch refined his songcraft even further. During this time, he partnered with the Sight Below's Rafael Anton Irisarri as Orcas, who released their self-titled debut album in 2012. A year later, Pioulard's fittingly named Hymnal reflected the inspiration Meluch drew from the religious iconography in the cathedrals he visited while recording in England and mainland Europe. After spending more time with Orcas -- which included the release of their second album, Yearling, in 2014 -- Meluch returned with 2015's Sonnet, the fifth Benoît Pioulard album and the first made solely with analog tape and effects. A fractured radial bone in his right wrist led to 2016's Radial, a pay-what-you-want effort released to help with Meluch's medical bills. A few months later, The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter arrived on the tenth anniversary of Précis, and recalled that album's homespun ambient pop. Lignin Poise was originally released as a tour-only CD-R in February of 2017 before Beacon Sound issued it on vinyl the following September. Deck Amber, a collaboration with Ant'lrd, also appeared in 2018. In March 2019, Pioulard and longtime friend Sean Curtis Patrick issued Avocationals, a collection of ambient pieces inspired by Great Lakes shipwrecks. That October, Pioulard returned with his Morr Music debut, Sylva. Recorded during a nine-month excursion that took him to locales including Montana, Hawaii, and his home state of Michigan, the album was released with a book of Pioulard's nature photography. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi