It’s pretty safe to assume that Thomas Meluch doesn’t lead a very ostentatious life. Not much is known about him because there’s not much to be said– par for the course when you’re a 26-year-old Portland transplant who records under a French Canadian name. Luckily for us, every eighteen to twenty-four months, Meluch stores his bike away, puts down the fair trade coffee, and records an album of lush, expansive ambient-folk music as Benoit Pioulard.
Lasted, Pioulard’s third proper LP, opens in a way that’s much like the album’s creator: with a found recording of a far off train horn, fading into hissing white noise and humming drones. It’s distant. It’s enigmatic. It captures the feeling you get when you’re walking along the train tracks at dawn, with the fog thick and ominous. Throughout the record, Meluch displays a level of musical craftsmanship unparalleled by many of his peers, possessing a preternatural ability to fuse together drone, noise, and found sounds and integrate them seamlessly into gorgeously written acoustic songs.
As the frosty winds that underscore “Tie” indicate, Lasted, much like its predecessors Précis and Temper, is deeply visual music that conjures images of rolling foothills (the thumping tom drums on “Ailleurs” and simultaneously bouncing-and-clattering percussion on “A Coin on the Tongue“), blizzard-stricken highlands (the chilly acoustic tones of “Weird Door”), and occasionally the warmth of a late-autumn bonfire (the warm accordion that becomes the focal point of the title-track). “Shouting Distance” applies a wide array of tones, textures, and rhythms to co-exist nicely with Meluch’s vocals, which are blended so deeply into the mix that it sounds like he’s actually singing in French, as his pseudonym would suggest.
The record ends much like it began, with closer “Nod” putting you next to those tracks as the train chugs along past you, wheels clanging against the railway while an alluring low drone slowly rises and fades, with the sun peeking out from over the horizon. Few artists can ably combine ambient and acoustic music and make it come across as organic, and even fewer still can create those soundscapes with the glacial beauty of Benoit Pioulard, which is a good enough reason for him to be left alone.