Yann Tiersen – Skyline

January 01, 1970






Yann Tiersen (http://www.yanntiersen.com)
is many things – a singer and songwriter, violinist, multi-instrumentalist,
Frenchman, world traveler, wearer of odd haircuts, scorer of films (how long
will he live in our imaginations as the man who composed the score to Amélie?). In his own bio he describes
his vision as “a musical anarchy,” and that may be apt, but what his
latest offering, Skyline, brings to
the ear is worlds away from the nose-thumbing of Never Mind the Bollocks.

Instead, it’s a collection of nine soundscapes. Each track
is as much of a composition (in the classical sense) as it is a song. There are
lyrics on most, but rather than imparting a narrative, the language serves as
another texture on a canvas that bristles with itchy, tactile viscidity.

Maybe this is the anarchy: The way Tiersen crafts lush, beautiful music and
then radically alters the diatonic system. He interjects atonality, mechanical
clatter and dissonant buzz. And he makes you, the listener, like it.

Where “I’m Gonna Live Anyhow” bounces in a magnetic field of
electrical charge, the static buzz of “Monuments” is smoother, more
of a comfort. Here, warm layers of sound build, organic at the foundation and
rising to electrical and mechanical notes over which Tiersen’s voice warbles
through heavy effects. Here, also, we’re given a clue: “Tiny moments of
mine, they’re floating in space,” is the lyric. Indeed, Skyline reads as a series of tiny
moments – not major life events but instead the beautiful, insignificant
ephemera that falls away in the wake of life’s progress.

Where “The Gutter” returns to mellow basking in planetarium-like
twinkling, the shimmer of cymbals and Tiersen’s own softly-sung falsetto
(really, what could this song have to do with a gutter? Except that the
repeated line, “try to reach the sea” calls to mind the epic journeys
of so many flushed goldfish); “Exit 25 Block 20,” follows directly
with a series of barks, yips and guttural howls. Here, half-man and half-wolf,
given to too much moonlight, the composer loosens his primal scream in the
sonic domain of radio signals, Theremin whines and (nearly buried in the
fracas) a crescendoing melody line.

Taken in fractions, Skyline could be
filed as ambient, as psychedelic, as melodic electronica, as hardline
electronica, as drone and as prog. But there’s always something else, another
thread running through like a beam of light or the filament of a fast-fading
dream. Tiersen layers instruments (including synthesizers) with an orchestral
ear. There’s method and patience at work here, but also a rock band soul that
breathes in the kinetic space of each song. And there’s a dark poetry in the
mix, marrying desolation and hope, spirituality and agnosticism, chanting
repeated phrases like prayers into a sparkling abyss. 

Somewhere around the halfway mark of “The Trail,” a flute utters a
few low notes into the wash of harmony and discord. It’s a small gesture, but
no sound in Tiersen’s work is inconsequential. From that sweetly sentimental
instance, the music changes, its disparate parts finding equanimity and gravity
around the chorus of “Someday my girl, in your mirror.” What that
means is hard to say, but it has weight. On Skyline,
Tiersen plays with words as much as with sounds, finding combinations that
allude to more than their apparent sums. Words with purpose and intent, if not
obvious context. This is the musician who, on Dust Lane, turned the words “fuck me” into an existential
reverie – maybe that’s the anarchy. The apostasy. The complete abandonment,
where by shedding everything Tiersen embraces everything.

The album wraps with “Vanishing Point,” mostly warm, mostly soft,
ebbing and flowing through space. Here, electronics hum and a man-beast barks,
but there’s a lightness and groove to the track. When it slows to a
needle-dragging finish, the silence is all too jarring and all too soon.

“Another Shore” and “Monuments” ALLI MARSHALL

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