Sebastien Tellier - Confection

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2013-11-11

Following his sidestep into sexy synth-pop territory, French beardy singer-songwriter Sebastien Tellier has returned to what is generally held to be his great transcendent moment - the seven-and-a-half-minute, rolling majesty of 'La Ritournelle' from 2004's Politics, a piano-and-strings masterpiece which now, slightly unfairly, seems to tower over his subsequent work. Rather dismayingly for those of us who enjoyed the kitsch, machine-tooled pop of 2008's (more commercially successful) Sexuality album, Tellier actually seems to agree with the critics; hence the majority of Confection sounds like 'La Ritournelle Part II'.

This is especially true of the album's best moment, 'L'amour naissant', which comes with an almost identical piano melody, a very similar back-beat (again provided by Afro-funk legend Tony Allen) and familiar weeping strings. It's bloody lovely but - and this is the crucial thing, sadly - just not quite as lovely as 'La Ritournelle'. But then, of course, what is?

The feeling of an artist repeating himself isn't helped by the fact that 'L'amour naissant' gets a further two iterations, one sounding like something from a 70s spy thriller, the other with a sci-fi funk edge. They're both perfectly agreeable but a little unnecessary, the musical equivalent of having a really nice meal repeat on you.

Putting aside this issue of repetition, the best way to describe Confection, and one which will no doubt be trotted out in every review, is that it's like the soundtrack to a film which doesn't exist. From the opera-meets-70s-prog overture of the ironically-named 'Adieu' through to the spaghetti western chamber-folk of 'Le delta des amours', this album plays out like the soundtrack to a kitsch cult movie which hipsters can have fun imagining they exist in as they mooch around with their headphones on.

That's all well and good, but the slow pace, ubiquitous strings and soap opera piano of many tracks, most of them entirely instrumental, means that this is not an album you're likely to play from beginning to end very often. Only the demented early Moog see-saw of 'Waltz' really stands out from the pack, an obvious tribute to Wendy Carlos' groundbreaking A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.

Overall, Confection is so one-note it makes you wonder what Tellier's creative rationale was for making it. Is he really just raking over past glories? Not only is much of the music here samey, there is also a palpable lack of depth, of feeling, the kind of emotional gut-punch which made 'La Ritournelle' such a compelling and addictive listen. It was pretty, sure, but that wasn't all it had going for it.

Unfortunately, taken as a whole, Confection is just a little overdone and sickly. Given it's title (which makes me wonder if Tellier's trying to make some oblique point I'm just to thick to get), this album invites the obvious comparison which eating an entire box of chocolates in one go. A tedious cliché, sure, but since Tellier seems happy to stay in the creative shallows I might as well join him there.

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