Hymnal is the fourth kranky album by Thomas Meluch under his musical alias Benoit Pioulard and it’s an interesting blend of ambient drone and what I would describe as ambient folk. According to Meluch, “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.”.
The ambient tracks are wonderfully dense affairs with both Gospel and Knell standing out as top-drawer instrumental drones between the folk tracks. Knell begins with the bells of a cathedral that over time melt into layers of ambient bliss. It is a curious mix in someways to have these heavy drone tracks interspersed with the other-worldly folk tracks but overall it works. Standouts amongst the folk-tinged songs include Margin, Litiya and the gorgeous Foxtail. If I had one criticism it would be that, for me anyway, the second half of this album feels much stronger. Overall though this is at times a quite beautiful record and one that is well worth checking out.