YANN TIERSEN has announced a new album, Portrait, a collection of 25 newly recorded tracks from throughout his career that includes three new songs, out on Mute on 6 December 2019. The album will be released on double CD, cassette, digitally and on heavyweight triple vinyl. Both the clear and black vinyl editions of Portrait include an exclusive 7” with brand new alternative harpsichord versions of ‘Comptine d’Un Autre Été (L’Après-Midi)’ and ‘The Waltz of the Monsters’, unavailable elsewhere.
Featuring collaborations with John Grant, Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals, Stephen O’Malley from Sunn O))), and Blonde Redhead, the album was recorded at The Eskal, the analogue studio Tiersen recently built in an old discotheque on the Breton island of Ushant with Tiersen’s touring collaborators Emilie Tiersen, Ólavur Jákupsson and Jens L Thomsen.
Listen to the first two tracks to be launched from the album, ‘Introductory Movement (feat. Stephen O’Malley) and Monochrome (feat. Gruff Rhys).
The reinterpretations for Portrait span Tiersen’s entire career: from his debut album The Waltz of the Monsters (1995) through to his most recent albums, EUSA and ALL and the album includes ‘Porz Goret’, ‘Monochrome’, ‘Comptine d’Un Autre Été (L’ Après-Midi)’ and ‘La Dispute’, giving fans an opportunity to re-discover beloved tracks in what Tiersen considers to be their definitive versions.
The original idea for the recordings came during rehearsals for Yann Tiersen’s ALL Tour, when Tiersen recognised how these new arrangements tied his career spanning setlist together and saw an opportunity to take the band into the new studio to record these new interpretations. For tracks from albums that were originally recorded in the 1990s, this would be the first chance to record these tracks in an analogue studio, and for some of the more recent tracks, it was a chance to re-examine some of their themes and meanings and see how they relate to the earlier tracks. Throughout his career a sense of place has always been incredibly important to Tiersen’s work and this, along with his passion for the theories of deep ecology have combined to give this album a powerful sense of passion and meaning.
For the original version of ‘Comptine d’Un Autre Été (L’Après-Midi)’, known by many for its inclusion in the 2001 film Amelie, Tiersen recorded an old, previously unreleased track for the director, but was never content with what he perceived as a very cold, digital recording. On this new recording, Tiersen explains, “I felt like I rediscovered the track again, and could play it in more of a personal way, linking it back to my own in life in Ushant. It’s good to have it back!” while on ‘The Waltz of the Monsters’, Tiersen records a completely different version with toy piano, harmonium and effects, giving the track an Italian horror film twist.
Portrait has given Tiersen an opportunity to invite artists into The Eskal to collaborate. He expands, “It was so good to have people in the studio, that’s what it’s for. Nowadays collaboration is so often file exchange, which is fine, but it is so good to have everything analogue and artists come in for some proper studio time.” These collaborators are both vocal and instrumental. Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals recorded vocals for ‘Monochrome’ alongside Emilie Tiersen for a new stripped back version, allowing Tiersen the chance to give the lyrics and meaning more clarity, something he felt was masked in the original (from 1998’s The Lighthouse). He explains, “There are lots of overdubs with the violin and the harpischord in the original, and I always felt that it masked the lyrics and the song. That, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t like the original version, but I always wanted to strip it down to something more straightforward and allow someone to sing it with more weight and clarity on the lyrics.”
Stephen O’Malley, best known as one of the founders of Sunn O))) came to the island to bring his unique sonics to two tracks, ‘Introductory Movement’ and ‘Prad’, and added spoken word to a new track, ‘Thinking Like A Mountain’, alongside John Grant. On ‘Thinking Like A Mountain’, one of three new tracks recorded for the album, John Grant, Stephen O’Malley and Melanie Knott’s spoken word recital of an excerpt of Aldo Leopold’s ‘A Sand County Almanac’ which combine for a powerful incantation on deep ecology. For ‘Prad’, one of the newer tracks on the album (taken from 2019’s ALL), Tiersen had been considering the sound and power of O’Malley’s guitars for the original recording, but the track developed into something different. When O’Malley came to Ushant, he took the opportunity to have his collaboration on that track, as well as on a very early song, ‘Introductory Movement’. Tiersen explains that during the recording “the walls were shaking – it was beautiful and it was so precise.”
The opportunity for Tiersen to be able to record both old and new material lies at the centre of Portrait and ‘Closer’, featuring Blonde Redhead, is one of three new compositions on the album. Tiersen explains, “I was expecting to write new material for this album, that was always the plan. I had been working on this track for a long time and Emilie suggested asking Blonde Redhead to sing the piece, which was perfect. Unfortunately they couldn’t come to Ushant, so they sent files from New York and Italy. But it worked so well, it was almost as though they were there. I love this band, but we hadn’t met and we still haven’t! They are the exception on this album, but we will meet.”
All pre-orders from Yann Tiersen’s store and Mute Bank will be packaged with exclusive set of analogue printed photographs taken during the recording session at The Eskal.