There are certain locations within everyone’s lives that evoke vivid emotional responses. Generally, this is due to the personal connection that one has with that given space. Artists have long drawn inspiration from these types of spaces, whether by utilizing field recordings to infuse a sense of place into a song or simply by drawing compositional inspiration from the mental image of them.
Benoît Honoré Pioulard Plays Thelma–the third release from Buffalo-based record label Desire Path Recordings—is instead an elaborate audio postcard from an imagined place, one that that the artist Benoît Pioulard supposedly created in conversation with his wife. Indeed, this 12” mini album is an intensely personal recording in both conception and composition.
Known simply as Thelma this imagined place is represented by Pioulard as a picturesque refuge where the listener imagines the sun shining down on a small lake or pond, lined by willow-like trees offering shade close to the water’s shoreline. With buzzing tones and glowing drones, Pioulard weaves together a wraithlike world where the texture of experience is all together different and the flow of time is anything but familiar.
The reason for the creation of this world by the artist never becomes overtly clear during the course of this brief 23-minute recording. The intensely personal nature of the recording however suggests that the conjuring of this place was not simply an experiment in composition. Rather, it feels as if Thelma is a “real” place in that it existed in the mind of the artist before it inspired this creative representation of it. Considering that it was something that arose out of discussion with his significant other, one wonders if Thelma is not a place existing jointly in the minds of a couple as a goal–perhaps a hope–as a place to one day retreat to together in peace. Whether or not Thelma is then a real space or simply symbol for something else entirely remains ambiguous but ultimately unimportant.
Review by Taylor Waite