Benoît Pioulard: Hymnal Remixes
Lost Tribe Sound

In an admirable display of brotherly cooperation, the Chicago-based kranky imprint granted Lost Tribe Sound permission to undertake an ambitious remix project of Benoît Pioulard's fourth full-length Hymnal. The resultant collection spreads nineteen so-called “interpretations, constructions, reductions and destructions” across two CDs, making for a wide-ranging compendium of bold reimaginings by figures such as Fieldhead, Widesky, Ruhe, James Murray, Window Magic, Radere, and loscil, as well as Lost Tribe's own William Ryan Fritch, Graveyard Tapes, Part Timer, and Cock & Swan.

Certainly the originals provided the remixers with the strong advantage of a splendid starting point, and many of those involved have opted to retain the immediately identifiable signature of Thomas Meluch's singing within their reconstructions (Part Timer's “Reliquary,”for example, certainly benefits from the presence of the haunting vocal). Though a title such as Hymnal carries with it reverential overtones (apparently European religious architecture acted as a creative muse for the album), the remixers weren't overly constrained by that detail, as their versions are as playful and explorative as they are respectful.

Some degree of difference in approach is discernible from the first disc to the second, with the former featuring a number of vocal-based treatments and the latter more oriented around ambient soundscaping-styled structures. In fact, with the vocal included a track such as “Margin” ends up sounding less like an aggressive, strings-enriched remix than an in-studio collaboration between Meluch and Fritch. But the package ultimately registers as a satisfyingly cohesive yet multi-faceted whole, with Pioulard's oft-entrancing material the obvious glue holding it together. Even so, certain tracks do stand out from the crowd, perhaps none more so than Brambles' “Florid,” a beautiful and haunting treatment that's as memorable for its hypnotically repeating vocal phrases as for an instrumental backing that's at first dreamily slow and then rhythmically charged. Zachary Gray's “Margin” likewise leaves a strong impression, as much for its swoon-inducing vocal melodies as its lilting psych-folk backdrop.

Many tracks understandably reflect clearly the influence of the remixer's style, such that The Green Kingdom's take on “Litiya” ends up exuding a characteristic dreaminess and laid-back, pastoral aura while Graveyard Tapes' version of “Foxtail” is as bold and experimentally freewheeling as might be expected. Others contribute arresting versions that seemingly deviate from their associated styles—I wouldn't have expected Field Rotation's “Censer,” for instance, to include a rhythmic design that at times flirts with techno. Elsewhere, The Remote Viewer's “Hawkeye” meanders with a woozy sunblindedness in keeping with the host project, Segue transforms “Censer” into a subtly funked-up Popol Vuh meditation, and Murray's “Gospel” dabbles in dark mysticism. Meluch himself couldn't resist the project's lure and so fashioned a Benoît Honoré Pioulard remix of “Reliquary” for the release.

In some cases, multiple treatments of a song are included, which makes for interesting comparisons in approach from one artist to another. In the final analysis, The Lost Tribe set holds up perfectly well as both a stand-alone and as an extension of the original; if anything, listeners unfamiliar with the 2013 kranky release will probably want to track it down after hearing the remixes.

January 2014