Temper is the second album from one Thomas Meluch under the nom de gurre Benoit Pioulard, following up on 2006's Precis. That release was one of several that came out of absolutely nowhere (at least for me) during that year, only to find itself lodged fairly high on my year end list of favorite recordings. There was something in the hazy, half-remembered recordings that caught my ear and stood out from the pack.
Although it expands the instrumental palette a bit to include both hamonium and cello (in addition to the usual acoustic guitar and battery of chimes and other sounds), this newest release largely unfolds in the same way as the debut. Hyper-melodic songs are offset by shorter, more experimental sound passages, and everything passes by fairly quickly, with sixteen songs clocking in at under forty minutes.
It opens with what are easily a couple of the strongest songs on the entire release. "Ragged Tint" kicks things off with an aggressive guitar progression that rises over muffled spoken samples, murky tonal drifts and some soft percussion before Meluch adds his quivering vocals and the whole thing shifts into a sparkling second half that's absolutely gorgeous. "Ahn" follows and comes out of the fog just slightly, with bright guitar plucking punctuated with snare rolls, violin sweeps, and what are easily some of the best vocal melodies from Meluch to date. With a verse/chorus formula all wound into a tight structure, it's an off-kilter pop gem that unfortunately isn't matched on the rest of the release.
There are still some fine moments, though, with "Physics" dipping into the same sort of sing-songy feel at a slower tempo and "Idyll" doing it's best to inject some life into the proceedings with a bit more of a fleshed-out sound. In many other places Temper drifts off into short, pleasant-sounding, but not very substantive ambient pieces that play out more like sketches than anything else. Texture no doubt plays a large part in Temper, but I can't help but think it would open up a lot more if some of the cobwebs were cleared away. It's still another unique and often-beautiful release from this young artist, but it doesn't feel quite as invigorating as his debut.