Parisian artist Sylvain Chauveau prefers to enshroud his compositions with intermittent bursts of deafening silence. This tranquil characteristic is the prevailing sentiment on his new mini-album S. In fact, there is such a strong penchant for deliberate phrasing that, at times, it becomes difficult for one to truly know if the songs have ended, or if they have just been punctuated by another bout of extended silence. Speaking of Sylvain Chauveau, or more specifically his minimalist tendencies, The Washington Post stated: “One thing minimalist music does is savor the silence between musical notes by eliminating any sound deemed unnecessary to convey the essential emotion.” I understand the concept behind Chauveau’s unorthodox approach—and when employed correctly it successfully emphasizes the solitary chords rung out by the piano, strings and electronic instruments—the problem with S. is that Chauveau creates so much silence, so often, that it is easy for the listener to lose their frame of reference. For an apt juxtaposition, Chauveau’s work with vocalist Felicia Atkinson shows how these minimal compositions can be held together and accentuated by a single unifying theme. Atkinson’s whispery voice provides that lynchpin, without it Chauveau is simply testing our patience with his unavoidable, and impenetrable silences.
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