"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Géographie intime

Crystalline, subtle, intriguing, Sylvain Chauveau's Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) (Type) manages to be both unadornededly bare & highly mannered. Just a voice, a piano & little sound treatments or faint colourings, like - pardon the clumsy poetic - a drop of paint spreading in a cup of water (a glassy xylophone on Complexity of the Simple, for example, or a glitchy rumble into oscillating drone on Slowburner (with Stillness)...).

No surprise, then, that it's simultaneously moving & nearly kitsch - the same combination you hear in the earlier Down to the Bone collection, only without the same distancing effect of a post-classicist/rockist covering (with very apparent sincerity) Depeche Mode. Oh, & without the 14-man Ensemble Nocturne too...

Blurb: "It is hard to believe that five years have passed since Sylvain Chauveau’s last ‘proper’ album. Of course there have been re-issues peppering the years since ‘Down To The Bone’, as well as more than a few collaborations and soundtrack appearances, but Sylvain has purposefully waited to allow his ideas to come to fruition. On mentioning his new album to me a few years ago, Sylvain commented that he didn’t think it would appeal to everyone and that he wanted to take a fresh direction. The Depeche Mode songs he had explored on ‘Down To The Bone’ had given him ideas he felt he needed to explore, and ‘Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated)’ is his attempt at an album of ‘songs’.

In many ways, ‘Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated’) is constructed the way albums used to be – it is compact and filled with vocal hooks and melodies, yet Sylvain has deconstructed the musical forms he grew up listening to and reduced them to their base level. Vocal snippets fall through the stereo field and his signature piano motifs splutter and cough through processed digital hiccups. As Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto deconstructed classical music, Sylvain attempts here to study and dissolve the roots of popular music. Each piece feels like it could have started as a three-minute pop sing-along before the accompaniments were stripped away and the component parts reduced to merely a backbone.

‘Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated)’ is a daring and challenging listening experience. The widescreen theatrics of Sylvain’s previous work have all but disappeared, leaving an album that is stark and incredibly beautiful. It is an album rooted in a love of art and music, both minimal and mainstream and celebrates Sylvain’s influences. One listen might only reveal surface details, but listen again and you will find much, much more."

Hear a few picks below, including the album's only pure piano piece I Ascended & the indisputably lovely From Stone to Cloud. Or stream the whole thing (& three Chauveau predecessors, each quite distinct & distinctively brilliant) thanks to Type's enlightened SoundClouding policy.

I Ascended

Complexity of the Simple

From Stone to Cloud

A Cloud of Dust

Previous albums:

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