Paris Récit: ‘La Ritournelle’ Sébastien Tellier, feat. Tony Allen (Politics, Record Makers, 2004)

Surprisingly my tolerance level for schmaltz, the eternal swoon is higher in music than in other art-forms, if this song by Sébastien Tellier is any guide. My feeling of affection for this song is genuine and real. This music touches my heart even if its techniques of manipulation are so explicit, all those strings, and so on the surface. Notice how Tellier sings his words of apparent devotion, the addition of the coy, or twee backing vocals after the line where he sings a line ending with 'I love you.'

Central to the music’s impact is the drumming of Tony Allen. There is such beauty to be found here, the way Allen maintains a kind of coiled precision in his drums, without his performance feeling caged in. This is the mark of his genius the way he keeps the rhythm so perfectly, with the impression that it could break out at any moment (as it does, just slightly, before the verses come in).

Oh, nothing's gonna change my love for you
I wanna spend my life with you
And we make love on the grass under the moon
No one can tell, damned if I do

Forever journeys on golden avenues
I drift in your eyes since I love you
I got that beat in my veins for only rule
Love is to share, mine is for you

Tony Allen is such a wonder on so many levels; he deserves all respect and praise that comes in his direction.

One listener said that this music is ‘a song for hope.’ I understand this. I have been listening to it on repeat over the past weekend until now, I’m not part-time in terms of my preferences, letting it flow into my psyche, as I make my way around Paris, letting the music become part of me, allowing it to soothe me.

Listening to it when walking through the grimy underground space of Les Halles and observing how people tend to congregate together, stand and move in groups, leaving space at the edges near the concrete walls; how they push forward in their movement, forcefully trying to be somewhere else. What I keep thinking is that even though this music is deeply sentimental, allowing us to feel a proximity with others it is equally manufactured. It is real and fake at the same time. It is the musical equivalent of the cinematic version of Doctor Zhivago

where the archetypal Russian male character is played by an Egyptian with an incongruous moustache. And yet, it loses none of its power for that, just as the final moments of the song is Tony Allen’s drums, unadorned, it allows us to transfer something of ourselves onto it as if it were a mirror. A musical surface offering solace. For this reason, I am grateful for its existence.