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Everyone Alive Wants Answers (2003) , 7/10
The Golden Morning Breaks (2005), 7.5/10
Les Ondes Silencieuses (Leaf, 2007) , 6.5/10
The Weighing of the Heart (2013) , 5/10
Captain Of None (2015), 6.5/10
A Flame my Love a Frequency (2017), 7/10

French composer Cecile "Colleen" Schott debuted with the instrumental lullabies of Everyone Alive Wants Answers (Leaf, 2003), built from her record collection but not quite like the exuberant collages of Solex. Colleen's meticulous assemblage of sampled records yielded fragile textures of ambient folktronica drenched in nostalgia. The range of moods is broad and unpredictable, from the pastoral, zither-driven, bird-infested Everyone Alive Wants Answers to the funereal, Venetian adagio In The Train With No Lights via the cartoonish Long Live Mice In The Metro. It's like being consistently lulled inside an old discolored photograph of children playing in the schoolyard. We wake up inside a film soundtrack of the 1960s (Ritournelle) and then inside a cyborg's auditory system (One Night and It's Gone); the we go to sleep lulled by angelic music (I Was Deep in a Dream and I Didn't Know it) and by the carillons of European townhall's belltowers (Babies); and we dream of a cacophonous and droning soundscape with a pulsating beat (A Swimming Pool Down The Railway Track). Then we wake up again when the cuckoo clock strikes the hour (Nice And Simple) and the whole universe has changed, because every day is a magical illusion.

The Golden Morning Breaks (Leaf, 2005) was composed, performed and recorded in a more traditional way, using acoustic instruments played live (and all played by her). Nonetheless, she is still, fundamentally, playing her record collection. And she is still, fundamentally, crafting the same calm atmosphere of magic loss, the same tender languor of endless nostalgy. The slow, sleepy melodies evoke a somber, older Penguin Cafè Orchestra. The attention to timbre and tempo is even more evident than on the debut album. The cascading harp-like notes and gliding cello lines of Summer Water and the gently tinkling sonata of Floating In The Clearest Night are miracles of evanescent neoclassical composition. The keyboard instruments in The Heart Harmonicon sound like a waterfall of crystals. The slightly dissonant I'll Read You A Story manages to deliver one of the most moving streams of consciousness. Bubbles Which on the Water Swim tiptoes away on tenuous minimalist strumming.
The metaphysical dimension is no less powerful and relevant than the sonic one. The Happy Sea, anchored to a dark organ drone, projects a feeling of immense and unfinished. The Golden Morning Breaks is much more than an impressionist vignette: it is the sound of a soul that lives. And the wavering, static lattice of the eleven-minute Everything Lay Still, processed until it remains only a distant buzzing, marks the end of the dream, the border with reality, the gate of meaning.

Mort Aux Vaches (Staalplaat, 2006), recorded in 2004, featured an arsenal of instruments (cello, zither, thumb piano, ukelele), but Colleen does not seem to do much with such a wealth of timbres.

The EP Colleen et Les Boites a Musique (2006) contains delicate collages created by assembling samples of carillons.

Cecile Schott progressed towards a form of adult classical music with Les Ondes Silencieuses (Leaf, 2007), her passion for medieval and renaissance instruments leading her to compose and perform charming sonatas for viola da gamba, spinet and clarinet. The best pieces divide in majestic trance (starting with opener This Place In Time), impressionistic watercolor (such as Sun Against My Eyes), and pensive meditation (Sea Of Tranquillity). The music is sometimes a little too cryptic and austere (Les Ondes Silencieuses, Le Bateau) but always admirably humane.

A Flame my Love a Frequency (Thrill Jockey, 2017)

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Translation by/ Tradotto da Antonio Buono)

The Golden Morning Breaks (Leaf, 2005) è stato composto, eseguito e registrato in modo più tradizionale, con strumenti acustici suonati in presa diretta (e suonati tutti da lei). Tuttavia, Colleen è, fondamentalmente, ancora impegnata a suonare la sua collezione di dischi. Ed è ancora, fondamentalmente, impegnata a creare la stessa pacata atmosfera di perdita magica, lo stesso tenero languore di nostalgia senza fine. Le lente, sonnolenti melodie evocano una più cupa e antica Penguin Cafè Orchestra. L’attenzione ai timbri e ai ritmi è ancora più evidente rispetto all’album di debutto. Le note a cascata di arpa e le linee scivolose di violoncello di Summer Water e la sonata lievemente squillante di Floating In The Clearest Night sono miracoli di evanescenti composizioni neoclassiche. Le tastiere di The Heart Harmonicon suonano come una cascata di cristalli. L’appena dissonante I'll Read You A Story riesce a consegnare uno dei più commoventi flussi di coscienza. Bubbles Which on the Water Swim si muove in punta di piedi su un tenue strimpellio minimalista. La dimensione metafisica dell’album non è meno potente e rilevante di quella sonora. The Happy Sea, ancorata a un cupo drone di organo, infonde sensazioni di immenso e infinito. The Golden Morning Breaks è molto più di una vignetta impressionista: è il suono di un’anima viva. E il lattice fluttuante degli undici minuti di Everything Lay Still, raffinato fino a un solo lontano brusio, segna la fine del sogno, il confine con la realtà, il cancello del significato di tutto.

Colleen relocated to Spain and was silent for six years. The Weighing of the Heart (Second Language Music, 2013) was her first album with lyrics. The orchestration includes viola da gamba, classical guitar, clarinet, toy gamelan and piano, and is best appreciated in the delightful instrumental coda of Push The Boat Onto The Sand (folk, neoclassical and Caribbean at the same time, as if borrowed from the Penguin Cafè Orchestra), in the clarinet and viola counterpoint that opens the instrumental Going Forth By Day (jazz, classical, minimalist, like Eric Dolphy jamming with Steve Reich), and in the dialogue between multi-tracked clarinet and viola in Moonlit Sky. The singing, alas, is not a plus.

Captain Of None (Thrill Jockey, 2015) displays a better amalgamation of singing and orchestration, notably the harp-like ticking in the ethereal I'm Kin, the tribal hysteria in the breathless This Hammer Breaks, and the tiny gamelan chaos in the Enya-esque lullaby Captain Of None. Other highlights are the lively dance Lighthouse, where her dreamy wordless vocals swim in endless ripples of folkish guitar, and the unusually aggressive Holding Horses for bass dub melody and minimalist ticking. No less charming are the delicate instrumental vignettes: the polka for percussion and bass viola Soul Alphabet and the melodica melody over dub beat of Salina Stars.

The viola da gamba disappeared on A Flame my Love a Frequency (Thrill Jockey, 2017), that boasts denser and electronic arrangements. Colleen is almost unrecognizable in songs that border on avantguarde experiments: her delicate structures now feel like warped oneiric hallucinations. At the beginning the seven-minute Separating displays propulsive minimalist repetition for toy piano and synth, but soon it abandons the vocals and becomes an instrumental for minimalist patterns, glitch interferences and dub-like stammering. Some of the pieces are mere abstractions, like the gentle tapping of the instrumental Another World (whose pale motorik could be a tribute to Brian Eno and or Neu) and the whispered litany of Summer Night (Bat Song), set in a sparse droning soundscape. For the first time there is also dramatic narrative development: the song A Flame My Love A Frequency turns into a slow, melancholy organ-like elegy which turns into an ominous rumble. More lightweight are the reggae instrumental One Warm Spark and the Winter Dawn, for catchy polka rhythm and feverish accordion vibration, but the latter could be the standout. Colleen reinvented herself as an electroacoustic singer-songwriter.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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