Sebastien Schuller

Happiness

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Sebastien Schuller's first full-length album walks and talks like a second or third release, which makes sense once you figure out that Schuller, a classically trained percussionist, has been releasing songs on compilation discs here and there for the past five years. He has a real knack for crafting thoughtful electronic music that moves like pop, and the result is a lush, echoing album, full of synthesizers and throbbing basslines. "Weeping Willow," which appeared on a comp back in 2005, is all whirligig keyboards and heady reverb, and "Tears Coming Home" pulses with electronic noise. All of it is competent, polished, and (contrarily enough), pretty mopey. But though Happiness is melancholy, it's injected with a few bright spots here and there. "Ride Along the Cliff" is a nice, jaunty break from the slower tracks, and "Sleeping Song" is upbeat in an introspective, glimmering way. This is the kind of stuff that draws immediate comparisons to Air, Radiohead, or even Moby, especially in the vocals department. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Schuller has an interesting voice -- thin and self-conscious -- and it's a nice touch when he allows himself to break through the instrumentation once in a while. Even if it sounds a lot like the some of the dreamy ambient pop that's come out of France before, this is a substantial debut -- haunting and difficult to fault.

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