Sylvain Chauveau: Un Autre Décembre
Minority Records

Originally issued in 2003 on the FatCat sub-label 130701, Un Autre Décembre presents multiple sides of Sylvain Chauveau (b. 1971), despite the fact that the release is only nineteen minutes in length. On the one hand, the recording features a number of pretty piano miniatures, a form for which Chauveau has become justifiably renowned; on the other, his interest in electronic experimentalism is intimated by the inclusion of four “Granulation” pieces that alternate with the miniatures. Listeners familiar with his output won't be too surprised by the recording's eclecticism; it is, after all, the work of an individual as comfortable collaborating with Stephen Mathieu (Palimpsest, 2012) and Steven Hess (in On) as releasing an album of Depeche Mode covers (Down to the Bone, 2005).

Chauveau's credited with piano, electronics, and field recordings on the recording, all three of which surface in the opening “Minéral,” the latter two for a few fleeting moments at the start and the piano for almost the full three-and-a-half minutes. Graceful, meditative, and melancholy, the piece immediately establishes the plaintive character of the minimalistic piano compositions featured on this relatively low-key collection. The material takes on a more abstract form in “Granulation 1” where electronic whirrs, clicks, and other granular noises intermingle at a subdued level. The two worlds aren't always separated from one another: “Neuf cents lunes” and “La lettre qu'il n'envoya jamais,” to cite two instances, undergird piano chords with quietly percolating churns of smears and clicks, while the closing “Du rève dans les yeux” parts company with the others in having guest accordionist Vincent Pouplard voice its melancholy melodies all by himself.

The “Granulation” pieces are interesting experiments, but the album's solo piano settings can't help but be more memorable due to their affecting melodic content; short though they may be, stately exercises in melancholia such as “Alors la lumière vacille,” “Un autre Décembre,” and “Il fait nuit noire à Berlin” constitute the album's primary selling-point. In issuing the material in a milky transparent twelve-inch vinyl format (250 copies), the Prague-based Minority Records label has spared no expense in the presentation of this early production by Chauveau.

November 2015