Sebastien Tellier: Paris Guingette Pirate

Skewed French ambience with added theremin action from Tellier...

Sebastien Tellier is Paris’ new Bohemian prince, a fried French philosopher whose recent debut album ‘L’Incroyable Verite’ is nothing less than a quest for universal truth and beauty masquerading as an unlimited acoustic odyssey. Pamelia Kurstein, on the other hand, has been described by synthesiser deity Bob Moog as the greatest Theremin player in the world today.

In this unlikely partnership, young blonde New Yorker Kurstein provides 25-year-old Tellier with quivering violin-mimicking melody and bass, while he slouches elegantly over his guitar and picks at his very soul. This is only the pair’s fifth show together, their first in the bow of a pirate ship-themed vessel moored next to Paris’ National Library, and is, for its 20-minute duration, uniquely astonishing.

Tellier looks like a youthful Gerard Depardieu, large conked, hairy and hugely charismatic in a dinner jacket and black bow-tie; an old-fashioned entertainer who wouldn’t seem out of place wandering the Left Bank, serenading lovers at ten paces. But it’s how he renders his songs live that’s most startling. Tellier’s hash-rich whisper is fed through an FX unit and out of a vintage amplifier, lending the voice a crackly distance, as though heard through an AM radio. Blended with his casual strumming and Kurstein’s Theremin swoops, Tellier’s voice becomes haunting and unusual, imbuing songs as simple as ‘Universe’ and ‘Black Douleur’ with a creepy resonance.

He stops the gig after five songs, one of which was started four times, bemoaning the sound quality, not feeling the vibes. But it only takes a minute to spot a massive talent, which Tellier most definitely is. In essence, he is The Truth. And he is out there.

Piers Martin