Music Review: Yann Tiersen – Skyline

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Yann Tiersen
Skyline
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 Tiersenhas 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.

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