YANN TIERSEN with BREATHE OWL BREATHE at the Crofoot Ballroom

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 23, 2011
doors at 8PM
tickets: $18 (buy tickets)

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YANN TIERSEN has been honing his musical aesthetic since he could stand on two legs. Born in 1970 in Brest, Brittany, on the western edge of continental Europe, he started learning piano at the age of four, taking up violin at the age of six and receiving classical training at musical academies in Rennes, Nantes and Boulogne. Then, at the age of 13, he chose to alter his destiny, breaking his violin into pieces, buying a guitar and forming a rock band.

Rennes was the perfect city for a young musical upstart. Tiersen got a musical education from the city’s annual Transmusicales festival, seeing acts like Nirvana, Einstürzende Neubaten, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, The Cramps, Television and Suicide. When his band broke up a few years later, instead of hunting for some new musicians, he bought a cheap mixing desk, an eight-track reel, and started recording music solo with a synth, sampler and drum machine, poring over the grooves of old records on the hunt for loops and orchestral strings to plunder.

By the end of the summer of 1993, Tiersen had recorded over 40 tracks, which would form the bulk of his first two albums. 1995’s La Valse Des Monstres, inspired by Tod Browning’s Freaks and Yukio Mishima’s The Damask Drum was the second album to be released on Nancy-based label Ici, d’ailleurs. It would be followed six months later by Rue Des Cascades, a collection of short pieces recorded with toy piano, harpsichord, violin, accordion and mandolin. Six years later, the record would find a much larger audience when several tracks, along with a couple of Tiersen originals, would be used on the soundtrack to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film Amelie (2001).

Dust Lane is the sixth studio album by Yann Tiersen. Two years in the making, it was largely recorded on Tiersen’s current home of Ouessant, a small island off the coast of West Britanny, with further parts recorded on an island in the south Philippines and last touches and final mix at The Chairworks Studio in Castelford with producer Ken Thomas (Sigur Rós, M83, Dave Gahan).


Dust Lane is, inescapably, an album preoccupied with mortality. During its recording, Tiersen lost his mother and a close friend, and the music within embodies what it is to be bereaved. It is also an album about life not as something lost, but something to be lived. “Not a sad thing, but a colourful thing – an experience sometimes painful, but also joyful,” says Tiersen.

As such, it suits that Dust Lane is the product of serendipity, of experimentation as a means of discovery, and the happy accident that breathes life into a new idea. What began as a simple, song-based album, sketched out by Tiersen alone on acoustic guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and toy drums gradually took on new layers and added complexities. “I took some distance and decided to deconstruct most of the songs as I was quite tired with the traditional structure of chorus, bridge, etc,” he says.

Dust Lane is ambitious new territory for Tiersen. An array of vintage synths add billowing, analogue textures, electric guitars and bass bring layers of fuzz and distortion. Songs slip from their moorings, take off on new and unexpected currents. “My plan was also to play with contrast between electric and quite dense parts and more sober and minimal quiet parts including piano and strings,” he adds. So, voices join together in chorus, arcing violins and crashing drums build towards mighty fanfares – but then, clouds part, squall recedes to silence, and mournful piano and strings guide you home.

With BREATHE OWL BREATHE.

 

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