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Sébastien Tellier, Confection

A thing of sumptuous and glacial grace

Sébastien Tellier once issued an edict that one of his albums should only be heard by candlelight. Confection does not, as yet, come with listening instructions, so the listener will have to decide the optimum manner in which it should be enjoyed. Swooping over the Alps in a hang-glider, perhaps.

The fifth studio album from the French singer-composer and one-time Eurovision entrant is a thing of sumptuous and glacial grace, which sees him venture further away than ever from the lo-fi electronica with which he made his name. The sleeve, featuring a masochistic image of a traumatised Tellier’s face bound tightly by a cord, is misleading, as Confection actually engenders a feeling of tranquil elation. It runs for just 36 minutes, but it could comfortably loop around for an eternity without outstaying its welcome (with the possible exception of the anomalous “Waltz,” which consists of a daft fairground melody played on a Moog).

The personnel reads like a who’s who of French or France-based artists. There’s a return for veteran Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen (who also played on Tellier’s 2004 album Politics), with Phoenix collaborator Robin Coudert on keys and production from Philippe Zdar of Cassius. However, it most closely resembles the more ambient works of Air, with whom Tellier once toured, with just a touch of Lalo Schifrin. Its style is typified by the quasi-operatic (“Adieu”), the grandiose (“Hypnose”) and the pseudo-classical (“Coco”), all dotted with wordless arias and piccolo trills. Lyrics are few and far between, and don’t appear at all until the tentative and restrained “L’Amour Naissant” — even then, they’re entirely unobtrusive.

That song, which echoes the piano melody of Gainsbourg’s “Initials BB,” is given two reprises, adding to the impression that Confection is a cinematic score in waiting. The temptation with an album like this is to describe it as “a soundtrack for a film that hasn’t been made yet,” although the images Tellier’s music sends scrolling through your imagination are already all that you need.

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