028 - Benoît Pioulard

After last week's bombastic world disco mix we’re turning inwards this week, to a colder, more cerebral space, for Métron Musik Mixtape 028. Benoît Pioulard is the performing alias of Thomas Meluch, a Michigan born musician who has long held a deep fascination with aural textures, decay and field recordings. It’s his feel for texture that first drew me to his work nearly a decade a go when I heard the brilliant 2006 LP ‘Précis’, released on the legendary label Kranky, his first of five full length releases with the much vaunted Chicago based imprint. In truth it was the Kranky seal of approval that encouraged me to check out his work and I have been a fan ever since.

His Métron Musik Mixtape opens and closes with his own productions and between those fabulous bookends Benoît crafts a beautiful blend of acoustic textures that longs to be played loud on headphones whilst lying somewhere particularly cosy. Flicking between meditative warm ambient drones, gritty static noise and a number of gorgeous vocal performances slipped in along the way, the American casts you from one realm to another seamlessly tying together different styles within his sonic palette. The vocal performances compiled here are truly excellent and provide a perfect counterpoint to the layers of sound that at times are so richly dense and emotive that it may leave you a little breathless.

Benoît has just self-released a delightful new 7’’ single which you can pick up, along with his many other fantastic releases, via his bandcamp page. Be sure to visit Kranky & look into his releases with them.

I spoke with Benoît about where his name came from, and what he's been listening to of late....

JH: Hey Tom, thanks so much for creating this mixtape for us, it’s beautiful. What was the idea behind the track selection?

BP: Most of these pieces were part of my recurring playlist while driving around the country on tour back in March – I also listened to quite a lot of the most recent Carly Rae Jepsen album, but couldn’t seem to make any of its singles fit into the flow of this particular mix. The first piece of mine was included on a tour EP for that jaunt and the final song is from a brand new 7” released through the Italian label Backwards.

JH: Until we spoke recently I’d always assumed Benoît Pioulard was your actual name, how did the moniker come about?

BP: It literally appeared in a dream, one semester at university when I was taking several French courses in the same schedule.

JH: Besides self-released material you have worked a lot with the label Kranky, one of my absolute favourite imprints. How did that relationship come about, it certainly seems a natural fit?

BP: I’m glad you think so! They’ve been one of my very favorite labels since I was 13 or 14, and I sent a demo of the songs from my first 7” in 2005 ; they asked for a second round of songs and the result became my first LP for them. When I really think about it I still can’t believe I’m among their ranks, even as my sixth LP is on its way.

JH: You put out a new 7’’ earlier this month ‘Seize/Marre’ - can you tell us a bit about the release?

BP: Yeah, it came from an afternoon last year when I was sorting through an old box of 4-track cassettes that I’d recorded in high school ; I listened back to a ton of things I’d forgotten about and was actually surprised to find a few good ideas and lyrics in there. I distilled all those things into one ‘pop’ tune and one ambient collage and the results seemed appropriate for a 7”, which has always been my favorite format.

I also Xeroxed, signed and assembled all the sleeves in the same way I used to for the limited CD-Rs I compiled as a teenager.

JH: You’re a keen photographer and I can definitely see an aesthetic crossover between your photography and your music. Is that a conscious decision or more of an inherent stylistic trait?

BP: I’ve been dabbling with photography about as long as I have with music, so I imagine my aesthetic sensibilities with both have evolved together. I tend to be a very visual learner and I am a huge fan of well-considered package & sleeve design, so the idea of music formats as art objects is a big deal to me.

JH: Can you recommend some music we might have overlooked recently?

BP: That Carly Rae Jepsen record I mentioned (E-MO- TION) is the best pop collection I’ve heard in a very long time; other than that my friend Martyn Heyne of Efterklang just released a gorgeous mini-album called 'Shady & Light' that I love, and there’ve been some stunning releases on the Students of Decay label that I’ve been wearing out over the past couple years.

JH: Thanks so much for the mix and for all your wonderful musical output to date.

1, Benoît Pioulard : Minuet : Thine EP (pioulard.bandcamp.com)
2, Saint Hildegard von Bingen : O Euchari : A feather on the breath of God
3, Warmth : Essay : Essay (archivesdubmusic.bandcamp.com/album/essay)
4, The White Birch : The White Birds : Come Up for Air
5, Assembler/Responder : Phase IV : The Deccan Traps (theattemptedtheftofmillions.bandcamp.com)
6, Odd Nosdam : Sisters (Boards of Canada Remix) : Sisters
7, Molly Drake : Little Weaver Bird : Molly Drake
8, Rafael Anton Irisarri : Secretly Wishing for Rain : A Fragile Geography (irisarri.bandcamp.com)
9, Max Richter : Path 19 (yet frailest) : Sleep
10, Dirty Beaches : Pacific Ocean : Stateless
11, Will Samson : Ground Luminosity : Ground Luminosity (willsamson.bandcamp.com)
12, Benoît Pioulard : Marre : Seize / Marre (pioulard.bandcamp.com)

Original artwork for the mix created by Jack Hardwicke.

Métron Records 2018. Hampshire, UK.