Yann Tiersen - Dust Lane

Posted By MiOd On Wednesday, July 10, 2013 Under
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.

Even in the Information Age, the world still hasn't become quite so small as people like to think. Otherwise, a talent like Yann Tiersen wouldn't have avoided international recognition for so long. French composer/multi-instrumentalist Tiersen is a classically trained musician who came of age in the post-punk era, and both of those musical worlds inform his work. Despite many years of high-profile solo albums, soundtracks, and collaborations with everyone from Jane Birkin to the Divine Comedy, Dust Lane is his first album for a U.S. label. It's a rich, moody, multi-layered work that finds Tiersen showing off his instrumental prowess and playing a wide array of instruments from strings to synthesizers on his haunting classical/rock compositions. Vocal-oriented tracks like "Fuck Me" show Tiersen's poppier side, achieving an infectious, anthemic sound somewhere between M83 and Broken Social Scene, while "Ashes" seems more in line with the extensive soundtrack work he's done in the past as it builds gradually from tension-building strings and horror-film piano plunking to fuzzed-out guitar squalls and choral vocal chants. The dominant feeling on Dust Lane, though, is that of an artist who reveres Ravel and the Swans in equal measure, as exemplified by "Dark Stuff" and "Palestine," where deeply muttered spoken vocals punctuate a dark, dramatic blend of driving, rock-derived rhythms, European folk modalities, and a symphonic brand of sonic conception that sets Tiersen apart from mere murky moodmeisters. Dust Lane is the kind of record that draws you into its own little world and sweeps you along with its journey, as unsettling as it is intriguing.

1. Amy
2. Dust Lane
3. Dark Stuff
4. Palestine
5. Chapter 19
6. Ashes
7. Till The End
8. Fk Me

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