Benoît Pioulard, aka Thomas Meluch, played at Chinatown art gallery Human Resources last night along with Itasca, Mirror To Mirror, and Sean McCann. His set was a mix of tracks from his previous records and his latest LP Hymnal, released via Kranky just last week. He began his set with hypnotic drone sounds accompanied by a video of colorful bokeh in the background, reminiscent of the cover for Precis, his first album. It was a good way of calming down a rather loud audience at first that soon fell into silence, fixated at the explosion of sights and sounds that Tom was creating in front of them. He performed versions of “I walked into the blackness and built a fire” and “Little A Strongly More Grow I” that were slightly different from the ones I’d heard before. Song after song bled into each other, making the set feel like one continuous narrative with very brief breaks in between when he stopped to introduce songs.
Human Resources was a wonderful choice of a venue for a show that put just as much importance on visuals as the music itself. Tom was almost obscured by the very minimal lighting on him. He played a couple of songs from Hymnal with “Margin” ending the short set. The record felt to me, after a couple of listens, like a mature culmination of his last few releases, while delving a bit more into experimental folk. What I’ve always loved about his music, apart from the strangely wonderful atmosphere he’s able to create with his wide collection of self-recorded field sounds, are the well-written lyrics made up of calm ruminations on death, religion, and the world we live in. All these elements combined together are what make Benoît Pioulard’s sound so incomparable. I can’t think of any other artist right now making such consistent ambient-experimental folk that’s pretty accessible to everyone, even those not well-acquainted with the genre. I hope it won’t be another full year before we see him in Los Angeles again!