Sébastien Tellier is an exceptional, highly personal & intimate artist echoing such other one-offs as Robert Wyatt, Syd Barrett or Serge Gainsbourg. An individual, an indomitable post mortal, a Parisian poet and a wild man of many talents.
Born and raised in Paris’ 17th Arrondissement his father played with nihilist French prog rockers, Magma whilst Sebastien’s own talents first came to light in 1999, when his recordings came to the attention of Air’s Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel and their management Marc Tessier and Stephane Elfassi. Their professional friendship blossomed and Tellier went onto tour with the band the following year and signed to Tessier and Elfassi’s label, Record Makers.
His first LP, L’incroyable Vérité [The Incredible Truth] (2001), was a fantastical pop album, which careered from lo-fi electronica to bizarre cabaret tunes. He instructed listeners to only listen to the album by candle light and it won a tight band of adherents who fell for his lush, humorous compositions. Standout track, Fantino, was chosen by Sofia Coppola for the Lost in Translation soundtrack.
Sebastien followed this with Politics (2005), which, like both his debut and next studio album Sexuality, took single term as both its title and theme. The disc dealt with ways of power and governance, in as much as it discussed the relative merits of genocide versus ketchup, as well as the tennis-playing opportunities presented by the Berlin Wall. Politics was a marvellous and mysterious second album which brought together such diverse supporting talent as theBulgarian Symphony Orchestra, filmmaker/producer Quentin Dupieux (aka Mr Oizo), legendary producer/mixer Philippe Zdar, together with the original funky drummer, Tony Allen. It’s most prominent and championed song was La Ritournelle, a sublime, string-led epic and undisputed nouveau classic. The track was simply described by the NME as “Basically Unfinished Sympathy Pt II” and upon first hearing La Ritournelle influential DJ Tom Middleton said “I had to pull over to the side of the road & weep”.
Post Politics he recorded an acoustic album of his more popular songs, Sessions (2006), which topped the French iTunes chart; this was repackaged for the UK market as Universe (2006), to include both highlights from the French CD, as well as compositions from his score to the film Narco.
His most recent and third studio album Sexuality (2008) was produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and was Tellier’s musical statement of intent for lovemaking: emotional, hypnotic and oozing with sensuality. With blissfully understated vocals, conveying a barely suppressed passion, Tellier came on like a modern day Serge Gainsbourg. Musically, the album touched on everything from synthetic electro and classical, to 80’s inspired pop and disco. It has become his most successful album to date and Sebastien, and his song Divine, was an inspired, if surprising, choice to represent France in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade.
What’s next? Well, Sebastien has always cut a maverick figure, constantly astounding and delighting his audiences. He will continually confound singer-songwriter stereotypes with his mercurial magic. Anyone who has seen him in action will know that his live performances are truly legendary – bizarre and beautiful in equal measure. As always, with Sebastien, expect the unexpected.
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