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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Go to the Sylvain Chauveau website  Sylvain Chauveau - Un Autre Décembre [130701 / FatCat Records - 2003]

Sylvain Chauveau presents his third (mini)album, Un Autre Décembre. As a stripped down work of piano compositions, this subtle and frail piece of work constructed with minimal sounds and instrumentation now finds its way outside of France for the first time.

Chauveau is not unknown in France; the Paris-based composer has already released two more albums (Le Livre Noir Du Capitalisme and Nocturne Impalpable) and has also made music for the movie Des Plumes Dans La Tête. He supported Sigur Rós on their 2002 European Tour and is also a member of the bands Micro:Mega and Arca. 130701 Records, an imprint of FatCat, is concentrating on artists using classical instrumentation and Un Autre Décembre seems to fit perfectly indeed.

Silence. A very important word in Sylvain Chauveau’s music. Actually it is one of Chauveau’s main ideas to stay as close as possible to the abstract beauty of silence. “Back to the essential, to the naked echoes of the main instrument in Western music: the piano.” The delicate touching of the piano keys happens not too often, leaving room for the listener to discover, and time to think. He claims that he never has any teaching and doesn’t even know which notes he plays, doing this pure intuitive, guided primarily by the passion for making beautiful music.

Beautiful. Another keyword. The notes played feel so fragile, gracefully touching the ear and stimulating the imagination. The chords are not difficult or technical, which again refers to the idea of stripping the music down to the bone, back to the essential, staying simple and still melodic. It works surprisingly, although I’m not really into minimal classical compositions. When played with headphone on with a decent volume, there appears to be more. Very tiny electronic sounds and glitches support the silence, almost inaudible. A striking contrast with the piano, playing with influences from early 20th century chamber music composers, mid-century musique concrete, the electro-acoustic school, post-punk philosophy and pop culture, raising a feeling of melancholy.

Melancholy. The last of the three keywords mentioned that describe exactly what Un Autre Décembre is about. The work is inspired by the work of the late French cinematographer Robert Bresson, known for his sober aesthetics. The title comes from a sad song by Jacques Brel called Jaurès, telling the misery that people experienced in the mining town early in the 20th century, describing the year as “the twelve months were called December” (“les douze mois s’appelaient décembre”). That shines through in the 12 tracks, spanning almost 24 minutes. It grows on the listener, slowly raising the understanding why Chauveau touched that key at that time. Only the last track, Du Rêve Dans Les Jeux, is different; Vincent Pouplard is soloing with his accordion here.

I think Sylvain Chauveau has succeeded in creating an abstract masterpiece constructed of such minimal material. I suspect the effect to be even bigger when this disc is played on a cold wintry evening, but this intensely beautiful release can easily be played during the whole year. After all, the twelve months were called December...

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Justin Faase
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