Review Summary: A truly fantastic debut, Précis blends electronica and folk into one unique and fantastic sound.
Two of the most commonly relaxing genres of music are certainly acoustic-based folk and ambient electronica. Both genres, while sounding completely different, share many commonalities. If stripped down to their purest form, both genres have little variety and can send a listener into a completely relaxed and sleepy trance. When done right, they are often regarded as the finest and greatest music of any genre, simply because of their mind-altering and transcendent abilities. How could anyone combine these two genres, though? An acoustic guitar and synthesized textures don’t blend together that well, and the tones and textures of the two sounds are just going to clash, right? Not when Benoît Pioulard, born Thomas Meluch, works his musical magic.
Pioulard is a modern renaissance man- a multi-instrumentalist, photographer, writer, singer, and so much more. Précis is his debut solo album, although he also released various self-releases and a 7” EP. The album sounds as though he has years of experience with this sound and he has truly mastered his unique sound. Pioulard knows just how to blend the two sounds together. Still, he doesn’t simply sit on this sound and expect an entire album to come out of it. He puts some strictly ambient songs and some strictly folk songs on the album, but he never steps away from presenting one or both of these two sounds. His ambient sound is one of the more interesting in the genre. He relies mostly on noise samples, static, and feedback while he presents one melody, but instead of using the melody as his method of growth, he uses the static and feedback. He lets those sounds grow to a point where they almost overtake the melody, which gives off an incredible amount of tension before he releases back to something quiet. There are no real wall-of-sound climaxes on the album, although Pioulard has the hardest part of the process down perfectly, the growth. The pure ambient tracks play as short transitions between sections of the album, appearing after three full tracks.
A full track on this album is still incredibly short. The longest track on the album is Ash Into the Sky
at 3:18, and some tracks are barely half a minute long. The album, as a whole, is only 37 minutes long, for some bands an EP’s length. Still, there are 15 tracks and it has enough content in its 37 minutes to be easily considered a full LP. The bulk of the album is that amalgamated sound of electronica and folk. Together and Down
is the first of this type after the ambient opener La Guerre de Sept Ans
. It features the sounds of static that resemble a wave crashing on the shore, simple acoustic guitar strumming, and Pioulard’s melancholic voice. Pioulard worked his musical tone to match his voice; it fits perfectly. He often slurs his words together, and many times, it is hard to distinguish his phrases. Throughout the song, more and more sounds add in including mallet percussion and other ambient textures. While not a true climax, it gives a sense of growth throughout the song. He uses other techniques to achieve this sound throughout the album, such as the use of feedback in Ext. Leslie Park
or the use of light percussion in many of the tracks throughout the album.
As a break from the extremely textural and deep bulk of the album, Pioulard composed songs like Triggering Back
. It is just guitar and some ethnic percussion with Pioulard’s slurred vocals. The guitar chord progression is great- simple yet dark. Although his lyrics are hard to understand, his vocal melodies are catchy and superb. There’s no need to understand the lyrics when the melodies themselves are so great. This is the only song without any ambient assistance, but there are others where the folk overtakes the texture techniques applied in the song. Hirondelle
is one of those, where the ambience and synthesizer simply serve as chordal background to the guitar patterns and vocals in the forefront. Ethnic percussion makes a return and the sound is dense yet everything is still distinguishable. Pioulard’s production techniques are superb; he really knows how to bring everything out. Since he is also a writer, his lyrics are written extremely well, although if anyone else sang them, they would be extremely hard to work into music. He takes some liberties with his grammar because he realizes that the listener isn’t going to be able to distinguish it anyway. Metaphors jump out of the song and Pioulard leaves their meaning up for interpretation.
Précis is an oddity in 2006 releases. It is a true debut album, although many other “debuts” came out as simply side projects of various experienced musicians. It shows that there are still promising new musicians waiting in the wings to lead the future of music. Pioulard, while still extremely unknown, shows as much potential as any debut artists of the year. He possesses a unique sound, production abilities that rival those of some of the best DJs around, and great lyrics. Fans of folk or electronica should definitely give this a listen.
La Guerre de Sept Ans
Together and Down
Alan and Dawn
Ash Into the Sky