This ambitious and successful project will undoubtedly remain a highlight in Yann Tiersen's career. The French composer still wears his influences on his sleeve, but does a better job at channeling them to create a truly personal music. For instance, he has been regularly accused of simply revamping the French tradition of musette waltz, but on this record these references subside in favor of a more diversified and modern musical approach. Tiersen also relies less on instrumentals and further develops his songwriting skills, which benefit from the participation of some distinguished guests. Lisa Germano lends her talents to two songs on which her whispery and almost lethargic voice fits as a glove. The beautifully orchestrated "Les jours tristes" reveals the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon at his own very best and is an excellent reason to wish for a full-length collaboration. The instrumentals, however, do not lag behind. Tiersen's abilities as an instrumentalist shine on two solo pieces. In particular, "Qu'en reste-t-il?," on which he is featured on viola, reaches a climax of an intensity and harshness unheard of in Tiersen's output. Another highlight is "Le jour d'avant," an uplifting piece delving into the Balkan Gypsy tradition. With a prevailing bittersweet playfulness and forlorn atmosphere, L'Absente comes through as an endearing and inspired collection of first-rate compositions and songs.
AllMusic Review by Alain Drouot