Sébastien Tellier's last real album Politics came out in 2004. Whenever someone says that an album sounds Zappaesque it tickles my fancy. So I bought the album and it was a pleasant surprise in many ways. The tracks that refer to Zappa are great and circulate somewhere around Apostrophe (‘) and Over-Nite Sensation but on that album there was also one really outstanding track which was something totally different. That track was La Ritournelle and ever since its release, it started a life of its own with many remixes and even different video versions. It turns up on one compilation album after the other and it stills gets re-released.
A recent video version in Quick time is here but it’s a cut down version.
The original full version is on his site under the music & video section right here.
If you wonder what Ritournelle means you can read what J.J. Rousseau has to say about it in Diderot’s encyclopédie right here.
RITOURNELLE, s.f. en Musique, est un morceau de symphonie, assez court, qui se met en maniere de prélude, à la tête d'un air, dont ordinairement elle annonce le chant, ou à la fin, & alors elle imite la fin du même chant, ou dans le milieu du chant, pour reposer la voix, pour ajouter à l'expression, ou simplement pour embellir la piece. Dans les partitions ou recueils de musique italienne, les ritournelles sont souvent désignées par les mots si suona, qui signifient que l'instrument qui accompagne, doit répéter ce que la voix a chanté. Voyez REPETITION. Ritournelle vient de l'italien, & signifie proprement petit retour, ritornello. (S)
[Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des métiers de Diderot et d'Alembert (1751-1776)].
There’s also a more up to date version of it. The great French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who died in 1995, developed a new concept for the term as a constantly repeating melody in relation to the act of de-territorialisation. I’m not going to try to explain it right here but just think of a child that sings or hums a little tune to fall sleep because it' afraid in the dark. there's off course plenty more of it on the net.
So maybe the track is a tribute to Deleuze. My view on it quite similar. The music evokes the feeling of a kind of dreamlike state of being you don’t want to end. But you know that situation has to end sometime. Imaging you’re just falling in love and your love get’s answered. You feel on top of the world and you just don’t want to get off it. You repeat or reconstruct that feeling over and over again, kind of mantra-like, to keep it with you, but deep down you know it has to stop somewhere. If not in a fight or an argument, a more moderate normal relationship or finally death itself. I was really impressed how he can make the music tell this story.