One hit wonders rarely deserve to be anything more than that – A-Ha’s thirty year career is unremarkable after the first release of unbridled dancefloor ecstasy that is “Take On Me”, and even though Rick Astley got a “Best Act Ever” award from MTV Europe, he’s only famous because of the dozens of times you got rickrolled while trying to watch a re-run of Usain Bolt in the 2008 Olympics.
But there are certain artists who, despite having a great deal more to offer, never get acknowledged beyond the exposure the mainstream media gives them. Yann Tiersen is one such artist – most people have only ever heard of him as “the Amélie guy.” But the soundtrack he composed for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 film is only a sampling of his work. Most of the tracks came from his back catalogue – including his albums La Valse des Monstres (1995), Rue des Cascades (1996), and Le Phare (1998) – and provide only a glimpse into his style as a composer.
On February 21 at Metropolis, his second time in Montreal, Tiersen will promote his new album, Dust Lane, released October 11 last year. On first listening, the album is refreshing – even more so if all you know of Tiersen is the ripply tinkly piano that accompanies Amélie’s adorable little doc-martin-ed feet across the cobbles of Montmartre. Certainly the technique of minutely-harmonized themes repeating over each other, shifting up and down scales, recalls this earlier work. Much of Tiersen’s music comes across as profoundly solitary – his reliance on the piano and accordion, while limiting the use of vocals, conjures images of a lone street musician playing for an audience of a near-empty felt hat and a stray dog. But Dust Lane is altogether more communal. Each track is vast, choral, layered, swelling with synths and voices and drums and musical boxes plucked out of dilapidated Loire Valley attics.
This is an album that needs to be an album. Each track bleeds into the next with caramel-like smoothness – but sad caramel, tainted with the sound of mournful sighing winds and the droning electronic whines that remain in the aftermath of the choral orgasm that explodes about seventy per cent of the way into every track.
Listen to the album from start to end. Then keep listening, because there’s one more track, the best one. The joyful and deceptively innocent-sounding orgy that is “Fuck Me” invokes raw, passionate sex with an intensity that will make you either yearn for it or raise your eyebrows, but you won’t be able to stop it.