Review: Yann Tiersen’s Skyline

Yann Tiersen: Skyline (Anti-, 4/17/12)

“Another Shore”

[audio:|titles=Yann Tiersen: “Another Shore”]

French composer Yann Tiersen always has taken darker paths — even the Amelie soundtrack maintained a certain melancholy. His solo albums are more overt. On 2010 album Dust Lane, he appropriated a stark passage from Henry Miller’s The Rosy Crucifixion. On his latest, Skyline (finally released in the United States), he takes the tropes of horror films and makes music out of it — at least on “Exit 5 Block 20,” a track that begins with brutal howls­ that only subside for a short portion of the song.

The rest of Skyline is less abrasive, though it does maintain the rough-around-the-edges aesthetic that Tiersen does so well (mixed to perfection by Ken Thomas). The album is very much a sister release to Dust Lane; in a way, Skyline sounds like its B-side release (which it may well be; the two came out just a single year apart). The compositions again use a rock aesthetic — guitar, drums, vocals (often spoken) — supplemented inventively by strings, vintage synths, auxiliary percussion, and lots of gritty layers of effects (plus, apparently, the occasional howl).

Many songs are anthemic yet subdued — another signature of Tiersen’s. Here, especially with “Vanishing Point,” the musician embarks on a foray into electronics. Skyline also feels less ruminative, a result no doubt of recording the album in San Francisco, Paris, and Ouessant (the French island that served as the main home of Dust Lane). In all, it’s an enjoyable if not groundbreaking follow-up, setting the stage for further exploration.

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