Written by Bjarte Edvardsen
What makes ambient appealing? Why this endless thirst for ambient? Why do I keep seeking it? These questions started bouncing back and forth while listening to Benoît Pioulard's newest album Hymnal. Another album dominated heavily by an airy and atmospheric approach where nearly every sound made causes an echo.
A part of the answer may be quite simple and maybe even universally rooted. Ambient music is obviously a very clear parallel to the air and atmospere above us and for many it can represent an open and free space, somewhere the mind can escape into. You only need to think about the last time you travelled in the air to induce this feeling. Many artists creating ambient music seems to know how to take an advantage of this fact, Thomas Meluch being one among this sky-seeking crowd.
Seattle-based Thomas Meluch is the man behind the musical alias Benoît Pioulard and Hymnal is his seventh full length release. On the contrary from what you might've thought while reading the introduction, Hymnal does not lack of structure. Lush dream pop is the key ingredient. Even though this is the dominating approach throughout Hymnal it feels as though his ambient world is where the pop 'comes from'. A distinct airiness permeates Hymnal from start to end.
One of Meluch's strengths I especially appreciate is his ability to make the sophisticated accessible. There's often layer upon layer of dreamy vocals, gentle rhythms and airy guitar soundscapes, very similar to one of my favourites, Eingya by Helios. Another strength is his variation between, and distortion of, instruments and field recordings such as harmonica and clinging church bells which I find more interesting than his somewhat tiresome guitar themes. But to make dream pop which is accessible, pleasant and at the same time interesting enough to give it more than a couple spins is a tough task and it's hard to come by someone who succeeds. I can only imagine the scale of the temptation to fall into the trap of making the dreamy too dreamy, leaving nothing more to it but the gaze. Benoît Pioulard seems to be clearly aware of this.
Pick this up next time you're heading towards the airport. This should suit your trip into the skies just fine.