Art is a lot like murder: there is motive, passion, rage, insanity, greed, pride, sorrow, which can lead to either art or murder. Both manifest themselves in myriad ways. Some are quick and callous; some are cold, calculated, and deliberate. Then there is the evidence, the physical remnants of the act, of which sometimes which there can be none.
If this comparison holds water, then a trial for Benoit Pioulard (real name Thomas Meluch) would be an open and shut case. Tthe Portland native is releasing his third full length,Lasted, on Chicago’s venerable Kranky label. Kranky’s penchant for electronic-doused experimental music lends itself to the dabbles of Benoit Pioulard. Lasted does not land far from the tree continuing Pioulard’s spree of simple, direct music.
Benoit Pioulard may not be French (he is originally from Massachusetts), but he is definitely a renaissance man in the most European of definitions. A quick glance of his website shows that, in addition to making records, he enjoys taking photographs of natural landscapes and silent urban treasures. He does not enjoy things like web-design, or self-photography. The fact that he chose to use a pseudonym such as Benoit Pioulard (a different name, rather than the more classical object/concept naming scheme) may indicate that he has an aversion to the spotlight but that is probably left best for another article. The important thing is that he has crafted a lifestyle (or at least a persona) for himself centered on subtle minutiae, quiet sensations, and a passive appreciation for the natural world.
Lasted finds Pioulard exploring this familiar territory, examining field recordings and lo-fi production techniques through a songwriter’s eye. Unlike amateurish attempts to do the same (think Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), Pioulard’s careful construction of his delicate, bedroom pop is like the difference between cooking and baking: measurement and execution. Melody, harmony, and ambiance are added in predetermined amounts, timed perfectly, and mixed carefully..
At their very base, Pioulard’s songs are reminiscent of classic, affected songwriters such as Nick Drake and Elliot Smith. Pioulard writes melodies and lyrics that are somber reflections on the slow passing of life. He plays production, using abnormal tuning and multi-tracked vocals to give Lasted some welcome room to breathe, an element his previous recordings lacked. Adding negative space between his songwriting and his addition of ambient noise serves only to better balance his particular style of song construction.
Lasted represents a singular vision, a solid and rather focused philosophy of both sounds and aesthetics. Benoit Pioulard believes in serenity to represent himself artistically. The drawback to this strict application of philosophy is the record will sound a tad single-minded, maybe a bit too limited in scope to an impatient listener. This particular art piece is a crime of purpose, a fanatical strike in the quest for purity and a belief in all things beautiful. Pioulard is guilty in that he must make albums like Lasted, as if he had any choice.