Sébastien Tellier

Confection

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The word "confection" could easily describe Sébastien Tellier's entire musical approach: along with other acts with French roots such as Air and Stereolab, Tellier excels at capturing and modernizing the most romantic and dramatic moments of late-'60s and early-'70s instrumental pop as well as making its kitschier moments sound stylish. He's grown ever more conceptual and chameleon-like over the years; even his most overtly pop albums, like his breakthrough Sexuality and the utopian disco of My God Is Blue, reflect his fondness for exploring a theme while showcasing different aspects of his music. He modeled the largely instrumental Confection after film scores -- an area of music he has some experience with, having written music for the 2004 movie Narco -- but the album could also pass for a more sophisticated version of his debut, 2001's L'Incroyable Verite. Tellier's choice to let Confection's music mostly speak for itself emphasizes its throwback quality, both in terms of his own career as well as his influences. He borrows from John Barry, Paul Mauriat, and Wendy Carlos so convincingly that "Hypnose"'s booming, very 21st century-sounding synth bass is one of the few reminders that the album isn't actually from the '60s or '70s. As usual, his pastiches sound more inspired than cobbled together, and Confection features some of his most emotive music. "Coco et le Labyrinthe" is mysteriously lovely, driven by a poignant flute and arresting major-minor chord changes that could give Tellier's signature track "La Ritournelle" a run for its money, while "L'Amour Naissant" -- one of the few tracks with vocals -- provides Confection's main theme (and would also almost certainly provide the title to the film if this were an actual score). Tellier also finds time for some playful moments; "Waltz" is a perfect re-creation of how the first wave of electronic pop musicians loved setting novel synth sounds to traditional melodies and rhythms. Overall, though, the album is a love letter to old-school romance that feels much less ironic than some of his previous music, particularly on "Delta Romantica," where delicate classical guitars and tumbling drums fall into the arms of sweeping strings. The soulfulness and melancholy of these songs make them special among Tellier's body of work, giving more depth to Confection than might be expected.

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