So far, I’ve always got the feeling that Benoît Pioulard’s records were unfinished. Don’t get me wrong: I acknowledged his value as a songwriter, his skilfulness when it comes to create a mood for melodies obviously composed on an acoustic guitar (that ability to break the boundaries of the instruments and add a patina of oxygen and nostalgia that, though keeping a safe distance, puts him in the same vicinity of Bibio), I liked his arrangements, the field recordings that lit up many of his songs and the interest he showed in managing different sound palettes. So I liked his songs, but I enjoyed them much more separately than as an album, packaged as a CD with a beautiful (and usually blurry) design. That, at least, was the feeling I had with his two “official” records to date, “Précis” (Kranky, 2006) and “Temper” (Kranky, 2008): too many ideas going around inside his head; it seemed to me that Pioulard had been writing all those songs separately and had stuck them all together without really thinking of a red thread or a global concept. Which is why I preferred to listen to his music in short pieces, like those nice 7”s he releases every now and again (the perfect format for a pop artist), or even things as blunt in appearance as “Dakota/Housecoat”, a more than beautiful ambient experiment that he had to release himself in 2006, as none of the labels he was working with was interested.
And yet, now “Lasted” is here I have to retract my words and put my prejudices to one side. Thomas Meluch (Pioulard’s real name) has this time achieved a rare balance between field recordings and pop spirit, between ambient rheum and melodic miniaturism. He has managed to thread all his different sides in one concept, which brings forth brilliant songs like pearls falling on a trembling and blotted stage, thus constructing something similar to a story. Or rather, a photo album with snapshots taken during a trip: images that seem unrelated but deep down have an invisible red thread. Right from the start, with “Purse Discusses” superimposing the sound of various trains meeting in the distance and a cloud of static electricity, the record’s kinetic and travelling mood takes shape; a mood accentuated by keeping the field recordings in the background at all times, as if they were sounds captured casually and distractedly, in order to give more prominence to the precious songs that come up here and there. Songs like “Sault”, “RTO”, “Shouting Distance”, “Ailleurs” and “A Coin In The Tongue”, which gain impact and presence precisely because they are backed by ambient moods; because they come up unexpectedly and shining brightly from the fog, piling up layers of guitars, dubbed voices and timid percussion, to invoke the spirit of the old heroes of melancholic pop: Nick Drake, Elliott Smith or Red House Painters’ Mark Kozelek. These heroes don’t keep Meluch from pursuing his own voice: it’s all contained there, on “Lasted”, a record that ends the way it started, immersed in "Nod", five minutes of nebulous phantasy that form the perfect prelude to all the good things that are about to happen. But first things first, don’t forget that upcoming split record he’s recorded with Rafael Anton Irisarri.