Benoît Honoré Pioulard: Plays Thelma
Desire Path Recordings

Should anything of significance be read into the subtle name change from Benoît Pioulard to Benoît Honoré Pioulard? Is the amendment designed to reflect a marked change in the sound captured on this six-track EP compared to that documented on the three full-lengths Pioulard issued on kranky (2006's Precis, 2008's Temper, and 2010's Lasted)? One can only guess, but this much is certain: Plays Thelma presents a radically different side of Thomas Meluch's Benoît Pioulard equation. The trademark vocals, acoustic guitars, and rhythm-based song structures of the albums are gone, and the material instead assumes the form of scenic ambient instrumentals that were crafted using guitar, harmonium, voice, bowed bells, cello, music box, and field recordings, among other sound sources.

Available in digital and twelve-inch vinyl formats (the latter in an edition of 300 clear vinyl), Plays Thelma isn't the romantic paen to an artist's muse one might assume it to be but is rather Pioulard's evocation of a place, specifically a haze-enshrouded lake populated by warm breezes, meadows, and willow trees that that he wandered through and rested under while soaking in the locale's ephemeral sounds. That experience translated into twenty-three continuous minutes of ambient settings that both soothe with enveloping calm (“A Land Which Has No End”) and restlessly flicker (“Calder”). One more surprise comes at the recording's end when “Autochoral” closes the EP with the lulling swirl of a cosmic drone. Is Plays Thelma a one-off for Meluch, a momentary break from his customary approach, or a permanent shift in the Benoît Pioulard style? Time, presumably, will tell.

November 2011