S├ębastien Schuller: Evenfall


Not to be mistaken with compatriot Sébastien Tellier, Schuller is a much more sober proposition than his namesake. With the more obvious electronic leanings of previous album ‘Happiness’, he found himself bracketed with Air for his music’s vaporous and supple qualities, and I’ve also seen it referred to as folktronica. The latter label is misleading – there’s little that’s technically folky about ‘Evenfall’, (unless by folk you just mean maudlin ballads), apart from maybe the instrumental 'New York', the prettiest track here.
Quite what ‘Evenfall’ is aiming for, though, is harder to pinpoint. Schuller’s singing voice, the quivery grandiosity, can bring to mind Thom Yorke, although if you imagine him as an enfeebled Morten Harket that works too. The album sustains its twilight mood, and Schuller knows which levers to pull to create emotional lift – there’s almost a ruthlessness to the manner in which ‘Open Organ’, with its two-note guitar arpeggios, swelling chords and unresolved chorus melody, manipulates the heartstrings. But overall this ambient-tinged MOR lacks focus, sitting somewhere left-field of, say, Keane or Snow Patrol – the arrangements and production work are often defter and more detailed while still not being a million miles from ‘Chasing Cars’ (with those aforementioned two-note arpeggios, in fact) – but some way short of the Mark Hollis/Talk Talk or even Blue Nile territory that it might really be aspiring to.
Perhaps ‘Evenfall’ will reveal more in time; in the most flattering light, the vague wateriness of many tracks could possibly be perceived as depth, and may well dimly reflect back most of the emotion that the listener is willing to invest in them. It also has a splendid sleeve, courtesy of Mrs Schuller aka Agnes Montgomery, who was also responsible for Panda Bear’s ‘Person Pitch’.
David McKenna