Sebastien Tellier thinks the beach is a great place to discover- sex.
SEBASTIEN TELLIER at the Mod Club (720 College), Monday (August 4), 8 pm. $18.50. 416-588-4663.
Incorporating the sound of a female orgasm into your music is a perilous gambit.
Do it correctly and you might create a uniquely erotic moment that furthers the sensuality of the tune. Mess it up, lay it on too thick and you've got Rocket Queen by Guns N' Roses, a cheesy wank that does little more than evoke giggles from teenage boys.
Prurient Parisian songwriter Sebastien Tellier has brushed his carnally themed new record, Sexuality (Lucky Number), with heavy strokes of moaning throughout. But fortunately, Tellier shows quantitative tastefulness, applying the sounds of female pleasure into his music with a soft, steady hand.
"Too much of that becomes pig music, and I don't want to be a pig," says Tellier from his hotel room in Los Angeles. "I want to be an elegant person."
He says the sweat-inducing samples are courtesy of his girlfriend, a well-known French actor. When pressed as to whether the sounds are artificial or captured organically, Tellier is uncharacteristically discreet, revealing only that getting them was "the best recording of my life."
"It's a mystery of the album," he says. "I let the audience try to find what is real and what is fake."
Recorded under the helmeted guidance of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, one half of Daft Punk, Sexuality isn't like the hard-hitting French electro vibe currently dominating DJ booths. That might seem odd considering de Homem-Christo's involvement, but you need to look a little deeper into Daft Punk's catalogue to understand where Sexuality wants to go. Think of slower non-hits like Emotion or Make Love, both from Human After All, as templates for what Tellier and de Homem-Christo are going for.
"What is important with Guy-Manuel [is that] he can create feelings from machines," says Tellier. "He uses machines in a very emotional way. And I love that. I need the sophisticated side of Guy-Manuel to explain my spirit to the audience."
However, Tellier takes a hard left on a bouncing early 60s pop tune called Divine that seems incongruous in the context of Sexuality's red-light-district atmosphere. Ironically, it's his most successful track, garnering a nomination as France's entry in the Eurovision 2008 songwriting contest. That doesn't mean much on these shores, but over there it's a huge deal, and millions tune in to watch.
Its inclusion sparked a controversy that had politicians writing Tellier letters demanding he sing Divine in French. He responded by driving onstage in a golf cart, with bearded nuns for backup singers, and proceeding to suck in helium from a beach ball so he sang the tune in a chipmunk voice live in front of hundreds of thousands.
Tellier's reasoning is that the tune is all about having fun. Sorta like, say, the Beach Boys had fun.
"The song is about Beach Boys, Mamas & the Papas, because for me the beach is a very good place to discover sex," he explains.
"At the beach you discover girls dressed in bikinis and you are almost naked. The sun is so hot, the sea is so pure, it creates a very erotic ambience."