Sylvain Chauveau

Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated)

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A long time has passed since micro:mega, the project that first nudged Sylvain Chauveau into the limelight, and it could be argued that all the projects since, all the ground covered, was leading up to this solo album -- that Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) was the ineluctable next step. Most probably. And thankfully, for this is one marvelously understated record, 33 minutes of slow, quiet, broken-down songs consisting of simple piano parts, bare-boned electronics, and Chauveau's crooning-intellectual voice, bearing a striking resemblance with David Sylvian's. This album probably couldn't have happened without two earlier stepping stones. The first one was Down to the Bone (2005), Chauveau's tribute to Depeche Mode. That album showed us (and might have shown him, too) how his minimal arrangement stylings could be applied to the song format, and unveiled how seductive a voice the man truly has. Clearly, that project started Chauveau on a different path of experimentation. Four years later came Touching Down Lightly, a highly experimental, highly minimal album consisting of a single 45-minute work of extremely bare-boned piano, where silence weighs more than notes. In between, there was also the electronic EP S. Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) seems to synthesize all of that: we get the songs (and they owe a lot, melodically, to Depeche Mode, especially "Show the Clear and Lonely Way" and "A Cloud of Dust"), the nakedness (the piano occasionally drops entirely out of "The Unbroken Line," leaving Chauveau singing a cappella, though as if there still was an accompaniment), and the electronics. The latter aspect is the most troubling; the electronics are not providing textural backgrounds -- they suddenly appear and take center stage, stealing away the piano, starting a rumble, squeaking. They shake up the foundations of the music, introducing discomfort and disarray. However, in that, they are cleverly and sparsely used, and the effect is striking -- ultimately, they add without sidetracking. The seven songs on this short album are deconstructed, stripped of their repetitions, brought down to the essentials of what makes a pop song: a melody, a lyric, a chord structure that doesn't have to be highly emphasized to be understood. The music is not as easy as it sounds, but it is thoroughly entrancing. Chauveau is a hugely talented singer/songwiter; we now have irrefutable proof. Highly recommended.

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