Sylvain Chauveau: S.

Is Sylvain Chauveau the composer of the lovely piano etudes gracing Un Autre Decembre? Or is he the Paris-based provocateur who audaciously tackled the Depeche Mode catalogue on Down to the Bone? Or perhaps the On member who partnered with Steven Hess on the ambient drone collection Your Naked Ghost Comes Back At Night? Of course, he's all of the above, and now extends those personae even further with the ultra-minimal S. EP. Aside from its stripped-down character, Chauveau's Type Records coming-out has little in common with the romantic melodicism of his earlier work; instead, S. is largely an exercise in guitar-sculpted electroacoustic music that, frankly, may leave some listeners cold, especially those with an especially soft spot for Un Autre Decembre. Get past the alienating surface of the music and song titles, however, and Chauveau's music remains absorbing, even if at a more cerebral than emotional level this time around.

Softly simmering ripples and vaporous hiss unspool beneath intermittent stabs of shuddering electric guitar in “Composition 8,” clinical bell tones and pops ricochet from left to right and back again in “E/R,” and processed voices occasionally stutter above the slow-burning ashes of the closing “A_.” He wisely intersperses three clinical settings with two austere piano settings (“P.,” “N”) whose resonant chords bring a modest degree of warmth to the EP. In the long run, however, it must be conceded that, though S. invites appreciation and, perhaps, admiration, it's ultimately difficult to warm to it its steely surfaces.

November 2007