Benoit Pioulard: Lasted

Lasted, Thomas Meluch's third album under the alias Benoit Pioulard, doesn't radically stray from the style fashioned on his previous kranky releases, 2006's Precis and 2008's Temper. But that it generally stays the course he's charted for himself is in itself no bad thing, as fans of his past work will be as charmed by his latest. Paying little heed to contemporary electronic pop conventions, Meluch instead offers a more timeless model of electroacoustic folk that has its roots in ‘60s-‘70s traditions, and songs such as “Sault” and “Ailleurs” stand out as stately incantations featuring multi-tracked vocal melodies and electric guitar patterns. Meluch's also got an undeniable gift for crafting sinuous melodies that worm their way into consciousness. In tracks like the exuberant “RTO” and jangling “Shouting Distance,” vocal lines undulate exotically while banks of guitars and percussion work their own potent magic. The title track proves particularly haunting, in no small part due to its deep vocal lines and lush surround, while the waltz time signature anchoring “Tack & Tower” helps it swoon all the more memorably.

The album's sequencing is straightforward enough, as instrumental vignettes (“Weird Door,” “Passenger,” et al.) oftentimes alternate with vocal settings, and the production aesthetic is pure ‘bedroom' with songs blurred by low-fi recording techniques and their clarity further smudged by rainsoaked field recordings (Lasted, we're told, was “recorded and mixed in domestic isolation, ... throughout the rainy season in his current home of Portland, Oregon”). That's never more evident than during “Fluoresce,” where guitar patterns and vocals are rendered out-of-focus when drenched with ambient hiss, and instrumentals like “Purse Discusses,” a hazy drone overture of outdoors sounds and blistered tones, and “Gloss,” an interlude of ambient synths and field recording atmospheres. The closing “Nod” similarly takes the album out on an epic cresting wave of static noise and buried tones.

As satisfying as Lasted is, Meluch might want to consider shaking things up a bit more the next time around. Hearing his voice sans multi-tracking, for example, would give his material a more natural feel, and would be a way of pulling back the curtain and letting the listener hear him in a way that feels more intimate. That caveat aside, however, there's little doubt that this latest Benoit Pioulard set should prove as appealing to admirers as the ones that've come before.

October 2010