Hymnal 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 for Thomas Meluch.
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.
The albumʼs cover depicts the dessicated interior of a centuries-old tree on the estate of surrealist Edward James in West Sussex; it was felled be an invasive, parasitic black fungus while still alive and verdant.
“Hymnal is a beautiful record; a voice and guitar picked up gently on a breeze, half-lost to echo and the soft, mumbled manner of Pioulard’s vocal execution. Flecks of woozy late-night samba come in the form of slinking guitar strums and castanet clacks, while the simplicity of some of his melodies brings to mind Cocteau Twins’ clouds of romance.” – ROCK A ROLLA