Musicians often need to assume a persona, giving an alter-identity to better create and perform. Thomas Meluch has been working under such a pseudonym for his solo efforts since 2005, moving deliberately toward his current intersection of folk and ambient electronica. His previous output under his Benoît Pioulard name has often been nebulous and, as with the case of last year’s album Sonnet, voiceless. With the release of The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter, Meluch opens up his expressions both lyrically and via acoustic guitar. With this new effort, he shades his atmospheric music with a humanity that also works as a curative measure for his grief and emotional state.
Listening Matter begins with one of Meluch’s signature drone-based expressions, reminding of the ethereal and isolating moods of Brian Eno. Throughout the album, he uses these quick interims as a respite between vocal sets, seemingly giving himself a breather from his realizations and confessionals. When he does open up, his voice has a calming lilt reminding of many heartfelt troubadours like Nick Drake and Elliot Smith, recalling moments while looking forward. “Narcologue” has a flamenco flair but soothes like a opiate, emulating that painless relief from reality. With the bright outset of single “Anchor and The Muse”, Meluch reaches for balance and awareness in the aftermath of his struggles. Meluch states poignantly that “If you still resent me after everything I’ve done/ Well, then I can’t really blame you, can I?”, owning his faults with a weary finality.
The tracks on The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter rarely last beyond the three minute mark, but the impressions made are distinct and indelible. His production is stark yet sprightly, finding the right moments to add a layer of anodic ambience or environmental hum. The harpsichord produced on “I Walked Into the Blackness and Built a Fire” matches well with an understated gallop as rhythm track, echoing with rich history and a tangible sound. The album’s best track “A Match for Charon” features an uplifting chord progression and swells that creep out gradually bursts through the mix like sunlight. The listener acts almost as an audience member in a theatre, where Meluch’s songs are vignettes to be experienced as well as heard.
That hazy, memorable ambience is a trademark of the music from Chicago-based label Kranky and its impact is easily recognized on the Benoît Pioulard signature. What makes the efforts of Meluch distinct on this LP is his representation of the ebb and flow of life, acting both as the cause and effect of his music. One can perceive Meluch lift the weight off of his shoulders as his songs resonate with individual pain and resilience. This feeling becomes clearer with the knowledge that he lost his brother tragically upon completing this album. With this, Listening Matter is an unmistakable release from a record label committed to a singular sound and an individual effort from a musician still coming to terms with his own art and station in life.
Nov 17: Constellation – Chicago, IL
Nov 18: The UFO Factory – Detroit, MI
Nov 19: Saint Mary’s Church, Hamilton Village – Philadelphia, PA
Nov 20: Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY
Nov 22: La Vitrola – Montreal, QC