Review: Benoît Honoré Pioulard – Plays Thelma

It’s as though Benoît Honoré Pioulard merely sets the sounds in motion, at which point nature takes over to see them through the unfolding process. Slow surges of cello imitate the tidal cycles of the sea. Sudden excitements of feedback repeat in meditative tone sequences, which would almost resemble melody were it not for the rhythm that stumbles and pauses irregularly like a wind chime. “Conventional” instruments (guitar, the aforementioned cello) are not heavily masked by effects and they don’t need to be; each is handled so fluidly that the resultant sound ends up peeling away from its source anyway, as the instruments cease to feel as channels of human expression and start to feel like natural processes of which sound is a bi-product. Actual field recordings of the sea, birdsong and conversation may make the most explicit nods to place and context, but surprisingly it’s the more “musical” elements of Plays Thelma that adopt a bigger part in the conjuration of atmosphere.

It’s a brief EP with appropriately modest points of focus: the glacial bubbling of winter river flow, the slight sway of trees on barren plains. It’s this emphasis on minute gestures that allows for Benoît Honoré Pioulard to remove himself from the record to a significant extent, and his core strength arguably boils down to creating the illusion of his own absence.