Slow Spark, Soft Spoke by Benoît Pioulard

Release date: November 17, 2017
Label: Dauw

With the release of The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter LP, we saw musician and composer Benoît Pioulard (Thomas Meluch) return to his more folk-orientated approach to his music, offering us a wonderfully introspective ambient lo-fi folk record. Of course, Meluch is a very prolific artist, who always seems to be working on the next thing in his vast and expansive repertoire. This year has seen the release of a number of more experimental ambient works, which of course may come as no surprise to fans of the artist, though it still brings with it a wonderful rise in anticipation and delight, as each of these releases has offered a wonderfully engrossing and introspective ambient experience.

Meluch latest release Slow Spark, Soft Spoke (a wonderful title of alliteration that perfectly encapsulates the nature of the album), sees the musician once again delving into his own headspace, taking inspiration from his recent tours across Europe and translating his own thoughts and feelings into something expressive and wonderful. The album, released in partnership with Dauw combines Meluch’s wonderful ambience with artwork by Femke Strijbol, limited to only 150 cassette copies (housed in truly beautiful packaging). Upon listening to the material one feels completely enveloped in an intense rush of ambient drones, built up by using guitars, bass, voices, magnetic tape and even field recordings from his time spent in France, Iceland and the US. The result is one of Meluch’s more engrossing ambient experiences, one that fills the listener with a sense of comfort as we get completely lost in the build up of ambient swirls.

There’s a wonderful lo-fi style to Meluch’s ambient endeavours, one that gives the music a very thick yet satisfying quality. Much of it feels incredibly reminiscent of the track ‘Whose Palms Create’ from the 2015 album Sonnet, where drone waves of guitar and bass rumble through, creating a windswept atmosphere that crashes down with each swell of ambient noise. Whereas Sonnet featured much more instrumentation to characterize the album, Slow Spark, Soft Spoke instead seems to opt for a less-is-more approach, which gives the album a very dreamy ethereal quality as we slowly get pulled into the waves of ambient drones. There’s perhaps less variation on the album, with each track exploring similar concepts to each other, but this seems to instead add to the engrossing nature of the album itself, making it easier to just get lost within.

Melcuh’s albums have personally never failed to delight in some way. On Slow Spark, Soft Spoke, we feel a sense of restraint in what Meluch offers, giving the music a quality that elevates it amongst some of the strongest he’s released. This is not to say that the rich tapestry of detail in his more substantial work holds less weight as a result, but rather the variation from such work to albums like Slow Spark, Soft Spoke show an artist who is truly capable of creating in many different ways. The knowledge and foresight to know when to hold back, and when to unleash is a very strong capability to have, and with Meluch understanding it, he is able to release incredible pieces of work time and time again.

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