Sebastien Tellier has, as the British music mags of the '70s used to put it, heavy friends: in his native France, he's signed to Air's boutique label, and this, his fourth album, was produced by Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. Previous records have been intriguing and fitfully great mergings of modern French electronica and sophisticated chamber pop, but Sexuality is built almost entirely on the Air/Daft Punk model of vintage synthesizer sounds melded to canny pop songwriting. Unfortunately, it hews so closely to that concept that most of Tellier's own personality is lost. Nominally a concept album concerning the titular topic, Sexuality is too chilly and cerebral to be particularly erotic: even on "Pomme," the requisite homage to Serge Gainsbourg's sleaze pop epic "Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus," the anonymous female moans in the background are curiously overt in their utter fakeness. There are some very good tracks here: the light-hearted "Divine" is a brilliant homage to early-'80s synth pop built on sampled voice fragments (like most of Trevor Horn's productions for the Art of Noise, Yes, and others circa 1984) and featuring the album's most immediately arresting melody. The Art of Noise comparison is even more apparent later, on the languid "Manty," which is built on loops of wordless female harmonies and a woman's fetching giggle that make it sound like a close cousin of the epic "Moments in Love." Elsewhere, the album's first single, the seven-minute instrumental "Sexual Sportswear," sounds like Air's take on vintage '70s synthesizer records like Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene, and is as curiously irresistible as that description suggests, and the equally retro clavinet sound that drives the hushed closer "L'Amour et la Violence" is pretty swell too. But too much of Sexuality consists of rote dance-pop songs like "Kilometre" and the utterly average slow jams "Elle" and "Une Heure,": pleasant enough tracks, but with little of the wit and invention of Tellier's best work.
by Stewart Mason