If you know Sebastien Tellier’s music you probably know him for his brilliantly layered, butch disco music; a sort of drunk-slick soul-sleaze set of electro-inspired pop tunes, and he’s all Warren Ellis-impersonating-Serge Gainsbourg, or a mountain-man down to tinkle the ivories and sip some brandies while he raises hemlines with his music.
All of that informs Confection of course – the latest in his lineage – but none of it is on display (as such).
Confection is a movie soundtrack without a film; that’s as Tellier has described it and that’s how you’ll hear it too, this mostly instrumental suite of themes is like a musical chocolate box, so much so the Mantovani-esque record sleeve it deserves would only serve to promote an irony that’s actually not there. For this is OTT, there’s no denying it, choir and nearly horror-score affectations, the elasticised-but-perfect-pocket drumming of Tony Allen, and strings that are damn near cloying at times – particularly when mingling with synths. It all makes for a version of serene that brings to mind that penultimate moment in Friday The 13th, the survivor adrift at Camp Crystal Lake, but the swamp-ghoul is just about to lurch from the water.
The swamp-ghoul is always just about to lurch from the water in Tellier’s cycle called Confection. That it never does is what makes it work.
For as much as there’s a horror-film feel to the serenity it’s also trowelled on so thick as to approximate the Bless The Beasts And Children score; borrowing wholesale from Serge (he’s probably always hated that comparison, and beyond the passport stamps it’s never really seemed valid, here finally he’s embracing it, giving it reason, cause). Also there are snapshots of Morricone, Gabriel’s Obe from The Mission, a wee bit of Cinema Paradiso. All of this fits in around piano motifs that could just as much be accompanied by candlelight.
(I passed this album on to someone who, after my near-incessant gushing, replied that they’d have to listen again as all they’d heard is Carl Fucking Doy. No disrespect to Mr Doy, not least because that’s a valid call, it’s almost entirely correct even).
Confection has swept me up with its sappiness; it’s pulled me along with it, so much so that I’m writing about it from deep within the smarm and charm of the music, with no real way of knowing how to get out, and not wanting to.
I’ve played this album more than any other this year. I’ve driven people nearly mad by looping it – its trim 35-minute running time (almost always the perfect length) making it right for the repeat button.
There are small worlds in this album, they are often contained in Tony Allen’s pocket or, as with Curiosa, they’re a wormhole leading to Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James playing it super straight. Or in that yearning bounce of L’amour Naissant and its reprises there’s the push and pull of a bassline that stretches away from the drums, a piano that dances in the spaces it makes in between.
You won’t hear another album this year so gloriously out of step with, well, everything: what the artist has done beforehand, what you’ve heard from anyone else this year, or most other years, and it’s wonderful not just for that fact, but because it’s full of surprises as it subverts schmaltz.
I certainly hope Tellier never makes another record quite like this – and I doubt he will. This is far too special.