Available now on Anti- (April 17, 2012)
Listening to Yann Tiersen’s Skyline
feels a bit like catching up with an old friend. Perhaps you haven’t heard from
this pal in a decade (the Amelie soundtrack), or maybe it’s only been a
couple of years (Dust Lane). Either way, like a childhood companion
you’ve run into on the street, you’ll find Tiersen aged but recognizable. And
though you might have to get reacquainted, chances are you’ll enjoy doing it.
At first, Tiersen allows us to hear the side of him that we expect. “Another Shore” opens with a toy piano melody seemingly pulled from the past. That lasts for about three seconds, and then Tiersen begins to layer on percussion and guitar. Within the first minute, he has constructed a dynamic, instrumental rock track, cresendos retreating into softer, timid moments only to build up again.
But Tiersen has done more than find a new formula. On Skyline, experimentation abounds as he draws from a range of influences (think Air and The Books swapping stories with My Bloody Valentine and Do Make Say Think). “I’m Gonna Live Anyhow,” “Monuments,” and “The Gutter” are filled with layers of idiosyncratic sounds, alternately quirky and beautiful. That combination is well-trod territory for Tiersen, even as his choice of genre continues to evolve.
On the whole, Skyline feels expansive and agreeably surreal. The notable exception is “Exit 25 Block 50,” with screams, hoots, and howls that seem an apt accompaniment to a small-town haunted house. These sounds eventually morph into something more tolerable, almost pleasant. Whether the listener will make it there is uncertain. Still, tracks like “Hesitation Wound,” “The Trial,” and “Vanishing Point” confirm that Tiersen has found a balance between grit and transcendence. There is distortion, there is melody, there is aching and redemption.
If Dust Lane was Tiersen’s foray into the depths, Skyline is his emergence, changed but triumphant. It is a transformation that can’t be described as good, bad, or even stunningly original. But it is authentic.