A lot to love
Yann Tiersen is a musician and composer who has been morphing and redefining “classical music” his entire career. Using both his classical background and tastes in modern forms, he injects experimentality and modernism into his piano and string compositions using synths, studio tricks and collaborators. His new project, Portrait, is a large collection of newly recorded tracks throughout his career, giving people an artistic collage of Tiersen’s impressive catalog.
Tracks like “Introductory Movement” showcase this melding of old and new; tense and melancholic strings melt into a sinister harpsichord, all while a synthetic drone echos menacingly into the abyss. “Waltz of Monsters” is another highlight with creepy toy pianos, unsettling choir vocals and cinematic bass drones make for tense, high stakes horror movie music. Other tracks like “Naval” are more subtle but just as interesting, the piano piece stays unassuming for the first half but turns more complicated when a warped and stretched drone creates both dissonance and intrigue. Tiersen uses collaborators to add vocals and occasionally instrumental experimentation. Blonde Redhead helps out on the track “Closer” which is a very pretty and emotionally charged composition. The vocals from Blonde Redhead are wonderfully quirky and intimate.
There is a lot of great emotional expression and exploration in Portrait. Synthetic textures mixed with old instruments aid the cinematic nature of these tracks. Tiersen’s collaborators also charge his compositions with a more accessible and expressive intensity. While this is not a cohesive or focused record but rather a collection of tracks from every corner of Tiersen’s career, there is a wonderful variety of work. From creepy and intense to playful and quirky, this variety and emotional focus is the heart of a good composer.