Somerset House – July 20th
French musician Sebastien Tellier has a catchy song about rain. Peering over his sunglasses while perched upon the Somerset House stage on Sunday night, he noticed the advanced precipitation and the crowd’s increased efforts to take shelter from it. “It’s raining, huh?” he quips before pushing his sunglasses back on nonchalantly. And with a nod, he signals for his band to launch into the rain song.
Welcome to the idiosyncratic world of Sebastien Tellier. The long-haired, bedraggled pop shaman was added to the Little Dragon bill only after the show had sold out meaning he was flying in rather under-announced – which may have only increased the number of raised eyebrows from the crowd as he declared: “I’m French – so of course my English is bad. I can say bacon. Sausage. And breakfast! And factory-made sausage.”
While his conversation wasn’t up to much, his music was fortunately first rate. After releasing his fifth album L’Aventura last week (fittingly on Bastille Day) he opened his set with ‘Love’. It’s the first taste of his tropically-inspired, Brazilian-themed album and it seemed to offer a ray of sunshine for the crowd when they needed one the most. Flanked by an accordionist and a drummer, they gracefully wiggled their way through a stripped-down set of his psychedelic bossa nova tunes, as well older songs such as ‘Fantino’ from the Lost In Translation soundtrack.
The cast of characters was sparse, but the feeling was huge. With a perpetually smiling drummer just quietly knocking away on his kit and the accordion’s hypnotic groove locked in the background, the yellow-bloused Tellier was free to unleash his lilting spell of French, Italian and English lyrics on the crowd while switching between an electric guitar and electronic organ. The effect was heightened by the humidity and his rather enigmatic approach to being centre stage, with the only fireworks being the little dance he did at the end before waving and departing.
If nothing else, this should serve as the start of our overcast nation’s love affair with L’Aventura, which should be destined to be regarded as one of the great albums of the year. Given his close working relationship with Daft Punk producer Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and his love of the Eurovision Song Contest (he arrived onstage to represent his country in 2008 in a golf cart…) we would be rude not to show him some love.
As the sun sets on Somerset House, it provided the necessary drop in temperature that Swedish band Little Dragon required in order to release their frosty electronica. With a stark background of angular light tubes and some very nifty lasers, the foursome led a charge against the general malaise of a damp Sunday night.
But I’m not sure they succeeded. Not that there’s much to fault in Yukimi Nagano’s singing. Her voice sounds as bewitching and powerful as it does in recordings. But the three middle-aged dudes hammering away furiously on their various bits of electronica and drums just can’t keep provide the necessary energy to the crowd. And the overall effect just didn’t weave the same magic as Tellier, while Nagano sounds much more at home singing on SBTRKT’s deep cuts than with her brittle, long-serving band.
Let’s just hope it’s Tellier in the headline slot next time, armed with the full sonic palette he employs to such devastating effect on L’Aventura. Throw in the lasers, and you’ve got a party.