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Yann Tiersen (b.1970) - Solo piano works 'Eusa' / Yann Tiersen, piano

Notes & Reviews:

After the far-flung travels of 8(Infinity) took him to Iceland and the Faroe Islands, Yann Tiersen returns home figuratively and literally with Eusa. Named for the Breton term for the island off the coast of Brittany where he lives, this is a back-to-basics project for Tiersen -- as basic as his work can be, that is. Conceived as a musical map of his home, Eusa began as a series of field recordings and piano compositions taken from and inspired by different locations on the island that were later issued as an album and a book of sheet music. Theoretically, one could re-create Eusa by playing the field recordings and performing the compositions, but of course Tiersen (who recorded the album at London's Abbey Road studios) brings much more to the album. As a whole, it lacks the anthemic winsomeness of the music that catapulted him to fame, but the album's simplicity lets his masterful melodies and playing shine. Tiersen holds Eusa together with a series of pieces named "Hent," which means "path" in Breton. These teasing interludes do feel like stops along the journey, from the delicate beginnings of "Hent I" to the serene sense of arrival on "Hent VIII." In between, Tiersen distills moments as well as places: "Hent III"'s somber melody, lapping waves, and bird calls conjure an overcast shoreline. The rest of Eusa flits between soothing and urgent just as nimbly. The rippling, full-bodied waltz "Pern" is quintessential Tiersen, boasting a gorgeous melody rivaled only by the sweetly nostalgic "Roc'h ar Vugale" and "Penn ar Lann," which is set aloft at the end by chirping birds and ascending chords. On "Porz Goret," "Enez Nein," and "Penn ar Roc'h," he imbues the album's longing with more insistency, but the results are just as affecting. Though he hadn't intended to record these compositions, it's a good thing that he did -- Eusa is like being invited into Tiersen's home to hear him play. Comforting but never dull, it's a reminder that the familiar can be just as inspiring as the foreign. ~ Heather Phares



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