Review: Benoît Pioulard, “Flocks” and “Lee”

Thomas Meluch’s music is always thick with atmosphere and always utilizes textured or ambient sounds, but seeing him live was a surprise. Bathed in steaming noise, Benoît Pioulard’s performance in Boston was a psychedelic jam that heavily favored his abstract side. The two 7″ records he had with him on that tour provide a sense of just how diverse an artist he is and one of them has me excited about the prospects of a Benoît Pioulard noise record.

Flocks is an 11-plus minute EP that features a dark, nearly resigned tone and more of the haunting melodies I have come to expect from Benoît Pioulard. The A-side, “Maginot,” begins with the dark tolling of a bell and puts some industrial atmospheric effects to good use. These are cut off as Meluch lends his drifting voice to a choppy acoustic guitar accompanied by percussive effects, bells, and a fluid lead guitar. As the song progresses it becomes more layered and acquires an exotic, yearning character before degenerating into a sweet mess of sound effects and sustained notes. The B-side is a noise epic reminscient of the material played during his live show. “Alaskan Lashes” obliterates Meluch’s angelic voice and eschews his melodic inclinations in favor of churning wheels, pressurized intensity, and grinding mayhem. It is a deep, bellowing blast of sound that broods and boils before it suddenly disappears. I hope this is a sign that Meluch has similar music on the way because both of these songs are superb.

Lee, on the other hand, features two covers, both described as old favorites by Meluch. The first is an excellent rendition of “Sundown, Sundown,” originally written and performed by Lee Hazelwood with Nancy Sinatra. Meluch erases all the punchy orchestration of the original and replaces it with a hazy and sullen performance that retains the core melody and romantic tone. Meluch’s spectral voice is in total contrast to Hazelwood’s grittier delivery, but the subdued tone generated by Meluch’s playing compliments his softer performance perfectly. The B-side is a cover of The Ink Spot’s “Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat,” a doo-wop song from the early ’40s. Meluch maintains the simplicity of the original and puts all the focus on his vocal performance and a plodding bass line. The song’s bookended by some static effects that sound like Meluch’s signature more than anything else. It’s a nice song, but the original doesn’t appeal to me as much as “Sundown, Sundown” does, so I can’t get myself as excited about it.

Both records are currently available, but were released in limited quantities.

Flocks is available on Blue Flea
Lee is available on Hall of Owls
Samples available at Brainwashed.com

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