A fine new label debut from the composer of the Amélie soundtrack.
David Sheppard 2010
Known principally as the multi-instrumentalist composer of charming, rainy-afternoon-with-a-box-of-chocolates soundtracks to the movies Amélie, The Dreamlife of Angels, Good Bye Lenin! et al, Brittany’s Yann Tiersen is also responsible for a less heralded quintet of solo albums which mix dainty musette instrumentals, Michael Nyman-esque chamber orchestra essays and miscellaneous songs (his last outing, 2005’s Les Retrouvailles, featured vocal cameos from Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser and Jane Birkin, among others). Tiersen is now a festival regular, too, latterly purveying his eclectic repertoire with a double drum kit and ondes Martenot-assisted chamber-rock combo.
All that diverse, protean musicality seems to have been poured into Dust Lane, the now 40-year-old Tiersen’s debut for Mute. Mostly recorded on Ouessant, the Atlantic gale-blown island off France’s northwestern tip which the composer calls home, its eight, extended tracks embrace a smorgasbord of styles: solo piano etudes, soaring choral anthems, indie rock-outs and synth-drenched soundscapes, often all of them in the same song. His guests this time include erstwhile Third Eye Foundation singer Matt Elliott, Breton chanteuse Gaëlle Kerrien and Gallic indie star Syd Matters; in harness with Tiersen’s band and orchestral players they make a mighty yet dreamy noise.
While the deaths of both his mother and a close friend during the album’s creation have lent Tiersen’s lyrics, mostly delivered in English, an understandably ruminative quality, much of the music is uplifting, nonetheless. The multi-voiced chorus of Amy has a coruscating, rock opera quality – a characteristic shared by the pounding title-track, a synth-suffused choral anthem that implicitly celebrates life even as it acknowledges the Dust Lane of death.
Tiersen gets political, albeit in an implicit, wonderstruck manner, on the less immediately successful Palestine – its title rather laboriously spelt out on the chorus – and returns to matters mortal on the initially doom-laden, ultimately hymnal Ashes which boasts one of the simple yet emotionally stirring string melodies which have become a Tiersen hallmark. The closing F*** Me, meanwhile, is the hook-laden coup de grace, Tiersen and Kerrien’s duet vocals ingenuously saluting the life-affirming joy of conjugal union while grinning banjos circle, Mellotrons wheeze and synths sigh orgasmically.