Growing up in Rennes gave Tiersen the perfect musical education in the form of the city’s annual Transmusicales festival, seeing acts like Nirvana, Einstürzende Neubaten, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, The Cramps, Television and Suicide. When his band broke up a few years later, instead of hunting for some new musicians, he bought a cheap mixing desk, an eight-track reel to reel, and started recording music solo with a synth, sampler and drum machine, poring over the grooves of old records on the hunt for loops and orchestral strings to plunder.
“One day I thought, instead of spending days on research and listening to tons of records to find the nearest sound of what I have in mind, why don’t I fix this fucking violin and use it?” Through the summer of 1993, Tiersen stayed in his apartment, recording music alone with guitar, violin and accordion, guided not by the classical canon, but by intuition and his vision of “a musical anarchy”.
By the end of the summer of 1993, Tiersen had recorded over 40 tracks, which would form the bulk of his first two albums. 1995’s La Valse Des Monstres, inspired by Tod Browning’s Freaks and Yukio Mishima’s The Damask Drum, was followed six months later by Rue Des Cascades, a collection of short pieces recorded with toy piano, harpsichord, violin, accordion and mandolin. Six years later, the record would find a much larger audience when several tracks, along with music from Le Phare, would be used on the soundtrack to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film Amelie (2001).
Tiersen’s commercial breakthrough would come earlier, though, and off his own back. 1998’s Le Phare (The Light House) was recorded in self-imposed seclusion on the isle of Ushant (located 30 kilometres off the west coast of Brittany in the Celtic Sea), where Tiersen spent two months living in a rented house. At night, he watched the Creach’h, the most powerful lighthouse in Europe, as it illuminated the surrounding scenery.
2022 saw the release of 11 5 18 2 5 18. This new, unexpected release from Yann Tiersen was born from experimentation in the studio ahead of a performance at Berlin’s modular and synthesiser festival, Superbooth. With more time than usual to prepare for his live set, Tiersen found himself in his Eskal Studio on Ushant, completing the story he started with 2021’s Kerber - which presented a beautifully textured and highly immersive electronic world.
Using samples as his source, Tiersen has resampled, reprogrammed and recomposed audio to create entirely new tracks unrecognisable and decontextualised from their original versions.