Sébastien Tellier has never been slow to surprise. Both visually and musically, he’s a definite advocate of the ‘shock and awe’ technique. The nakedness, the raw, pulsing sexuality, the sheer animal magnetism of that beard…. It would be tempting to call him a male Brigitte Bardot, if it wasn’t for the sheer surrealism of his projects. Sixth time around, though, Tellier is playing a slightly different game, trading orgies and cartoon arses for innocent, edenic bliss.
“L’Enfant Vert” allows us a glimpse into the fictional world that Tellier imagines for the album. The song begins like a fairy-tale: “once upon a time, in a verdant land on the other side of the world, known as l’Aventura, there lived a species of enormous bird”. Presumably, that will explain the album cover, then. The mythical realm of l’Aventura is Tellier’s childhood (this is not just psychoanalytical conjecture, he actually says so in the song. Honest.) This fabricated land is essentially modelled on Brazil. Auspicious timing, as the eyes of the footballing world turn to Rio.
The South American influence in L’Aventura takes Tellier into uncharted territory, musically speaking. The LP fuses his florescent palette of synthesisers with sumptuous orchestration and the kind of jazz flute normally found only in Ron Burgundy’s local. The lush rainforest of latin instrumentation on the opening track “Love” sets the tone for the next hour; languid and sensual.
Despite his attempt to recover a sense of innocence, it seems that Tellier’s infatuation with sexuality can’t be entirely erased. “L’Adulte” and “Aller Vers Le Soleil” are both laced with subtle seduction. The explosions of libido found in tracks like 2012’s “Cochon Ville” are completely absent, but what Tellier ends up creating is less a childhood reclaimed and more a utopian sexual paradise, filled with joy and pleasure, without taboo or guilt.
Tellier can’t let us be comfortable for long, though. “Ricky l’Adolescent” appears to be a ballad to teenage timidity, but little Ricky’s shyness is not the criminally vulgar aspect of this track. Tellier’s uncomfortably predatory whisperings run along the lines of: “Ricky, I know that you are there. But you are hiding, because you are frightened. What are frightened of? You are afraid of monsters”. Seems like Sébastien still likes to see us squirm a little bit.
Of course, no Brazilian-inspired album would be complete without a nod to carnival. “L’Amour Carnival” is surprisingly languorous, with dashes of sun-drenched guitar. “Ambiance Rio”, on the other hand, is a riot of animal calls and disco chops so vibrant it makes you want to buy plane tickets right here, right now.
While it may not be as charmingly naïve as he claims, L’Aventura is an unexpected transformation of the classic Tellier formula: pure electro-madness and bearded sex-appeal. And besides, who wants innocence, anyway?