Review Summary: Not quite as good as Précis, but still an excellent effort.
Folktronica is a bit of an irritating term; though it's accurate, simple, and to the point – it's essentially elements of folk and electronica brought together – the term just sounds so tacky and unappealing. And yet, the music is nothing short of amazing when done right. The title of Benoit Pioulard's (real name Thomas Meluch) sophomore effort is similarly misleading. A title like Temper
may imply a tense, edgy sounding record, but those familiar with Pioulard's previous recordings should know by now not to expect such from the Portland based multi-instrumentalist. Despite having released only four albums (two full length and two EPs) on a record label, Pioulard has been exploring and developing his sound since his 2001. With this in mind, it may be safe to assume that Pioulard has shaped the basis of his musical output; that is, a soothing mix of guitar based folk music and ambience.
As the successor to 2006's brilliant Précis
largely proves such claims to be true. On a superficial level, little has changed from Précis
; Pioulard generally sticks to two-three minute songs built on acoustic strumming, computer sounds, and (sometimes) mumbled lyrical passages. However with Temper
, Pioulard places greater emphasis on the folk elements, resulting in a bit of a livelier, more engaging outing. "Ragged Tint" opens the album on a bit of an anxious note, characterized by Pioulard's desperate sounding picking style. The song is dominated by several layers of acoustic guitar, accentuated by barely audible vocal play, harmonium, and soft, yet frantic beats. The song, along with its more cheerful follow up "Ahn" is representative of the Temper
's simpler, guitar based structures. Interestingly this arguably ends up being one of the album's strongest assets, as well as perhaps its greatest drawback. The cheerful dispositions of songs like “Ahn”, “Physic”, and “Idyll” certainly make for a relaxing listen, and readily put Pioulard's versatility in songwriting and instrumentation on display.
"Ragged Tint" is fairly representative of Temper
, not so much atmospherically, as the majority of the album is a peaceful affair, but rather in terms of structure and composition. "Ahn" takes things a step further, completely eliminating the ambient sounds in favour of straight folk guitar. "Sweep Generator" makes a jump back into electronic ambience territory, an abrupt stylistic change which is as seamless and pleasurable as it is surprising. For the rest of its runtime, Temper
flip-flops between the two styles, without fully embracing either style to the same extent as is heard in the beginning of the record. In any case, the entirety of the Temper
maintains a texturally appealing sound, regardless of whether Pioulard utilizes acoustic guitar or electronics. The songs are more polished than they've been in the past, but retain the natural, organic feel that listeners have grown accustomed to hearing from Pioulard.
lacks the same mystique upheld by Précis
, it's still an ethereal listen. The record's greater guitar presence allows Benoit Pioulard to explore a different facet of his sound, without straying too far from his general style. If the record is a little conventional for "folktronica", Temper
is distinct enough not to sound too much like Pioulard's contemporaries. Sometimes wistful and reflective, other times earnest, Temper
is always tranquil, concise, and accessible. So just chill.