Hymnal is the fourth kranky album by Thomas Meluch under his musical alias Benoit Pioulard, following Précis (2006), Temper (2008) and Lasted (2010). It was written and recorded throughout a year spent in southeastern England and on the European mainland, during which the ubiquity of religious iconography and grandiose cathedrals became an unexpected muse.
Raised as a Catholic but never especially pious, Meluch drew on this aspect of social history as the basis for Hymnalʼs 12 chapters. He notes a particular preoccupation with the ways that faith offers a sense of solace and belonging in an existence that inherently provides none, framed in a context of tradition, ritual and the notion of the eternal.
Themes aside, Hymnal contains some of Meluchʼs most expansive instrumental works (“Knell”, “Gospel”) and fully realized pop compositions (“Hawkeye”, “Reliquary”, “Margin”), making for a rich and dynamic long-playing arc. Also featured are string arrangements by Kranky label mate Felix and guitar work from ambient maestro Kyle Bobby Dunn
“Benoit Pioulard finds beauty in the raw and corroded.” NPR
“Accenting songs with effects that sound ethereal, gossamer, and elegiac is one thing, but Meluchʼs works are those things, only at an essential and fundamental level.” DOA
“How Meluch manages to make the muted sound so visceral or yearning so pointed is beyond comprehension.” Trebuchet
“Meluch’s songwriting has never been stronger. Using his deep, hushed voice, acoustic guitar, and smattering of electronic textures, his mix of dusky, introverted soft-focus indie-pop and ambient textures bring to mind flickering, aged film footage.” Pitchfork
“Another essential journey into the strange musical foothills between the realms of drone and songwriting.” Boomkat