As the puddles form around the humdrum town and London joins the rest of this disunited kingdom to enter a new Dark Ages, a little French fun should be just the tonic. Yann Tiersen contributed much of the score for the Amelie film soundtrack back in 2001. The quirky beauty of Audrey Tautou and Yann Tiersen’s music has, for many, long since been inseparable. So let’s party like it’s 1792 – bring on the liberté, egalité and fraternité!
It’s a real surprise to find The Roundhouse still selling beer. Presumably, the supplies of mead were en route, being transported by bands of peasants grateful for the opportunity to serve a nation in this time of enforced sadness. We’ll all need something to get us through these difficult times.
A large fly screen appears to be hanging in front of the stage. For use with a projector, you understand, not to keep the distraught Royalists from the French revolutionaries on stage. First up is Breton artist Quinquis – aka Emilie Tiersen – Yann is her husband. Quinquis sweeping electronica is fascinating and sets a suitably mournful tone. Later, Emilie invites endurance cyclist and author Emily Chappell to the stage to read extracts from her book “Where There’s A Will”. Rather ominously Emilie announces that the two “Emilys” on stage are as close as we’re going to get to ‘Amelie’ tonight. Quinquis continue on in a cinematic fashion with music as absorbing as a good novel. Unfolding layers at every turn before Emilie gives way to her husband.
Yann arrives at his table of tricks and electronica to the sound of a cloudburst. He’s steering these soundscapes from the stern. He apologises to those needing the loo as the sound of rainfall drips from the speakers. Fractal shapes and shadowy images swirl across the screen. Attending to his synths and buttons like a fishing boat skipper at the back of the stage Yann negotiates the Roundhouse through a brewing storm. It would be a surprise if Tiersen didn’t compose these pieces beside a brooding Breton sea. Electronic loops rise and fall and waves of sound wash through Camden.
The organic electronica from Yann’s latest Mute Records release ’11 5 18 2 5 18′ continues to envelope the venue. Couples – of which there are many from the Amelie generation – are engrossed but wondering when the warmth of his film soundtrack gems will dazzle into the nautical night. When it happens it will certainly be more juxtaposition than smooth segue. The vibe has become more Orbital than organic as Yann meddles with his synths. His Francophonic workshop. Emelie comes and goes and adds her haunting Breton vocals to her husband’s compositions. Gwenno would feel at home here.
The visual fireworks make it an even more immersive experience. Drawing people in like those interactive art installations in hidden, curtained off rooms in modern art galleries. Still no sign of that shy Parisian waitress though.
Yann slips away for a brief while and returns for the encore and a woman cries out “Amelie, Amelie” He has unfinished business. His return only heralds more button twiddling and late-night dance tent euphoria. Yann remains positively passive throughout – he makes Public Service Broadcasting look like pogoing punks!
Tiersen’s next move is off the stage. It’s all over. Grateful for the voyage there’s still a feeling that he has disembarked too soon. Yes, disappointment even. No artist should ever feel compelled into playing the “hits”. Twenty one years has passed since Yann Tiersen made music for the “madonna of the unloved” Amelie Poulain. As the audience plunge themselves back into the mourning air it just would’ve been nice to have some Parisian cuteness to brighten their way. Yann’s long since moved on though. The romantic queen of café culture is dead, long live the king of bleeps and loops.