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The most immediately striking thing about Colleen’s new album is the new-found use of vocals. Opener ‘Push The Boat Onto The Sand’ is a gorgeous affair, the vocals joined by beautifully picked nylon strung acoustic guitars culminating in a sound which could be a feminine counterpart to the more summery moments on this weeks equally gorgeous Bibio album. The track then lurches into a kind of sea shanty second section which is completely different if equally beguiling. ‘Ursa Major Find’ opens with screechy violin sounds transforming into an a capella piece, one part Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’, one part a happy, sun frazzled Nico. The effect is lovely, there is a disconcerting element in that the music and vocals seem detached from each other although the stop-start nature of the track is frustrating, just when it gets going it lurches into a breakdown. The influence on Moondog on these 11 pieces is palpable.
The earlier twinkle-heavy Colleen reappears in ‘Humming Fields’ where music box-like melodic shards arpeggiate around vocals and a thumping bass drum. There is something about this album which, despite its airy, summery feel reminds me of Nico’s ‘Desertshore’, you are never quite sure where you are with it, the songs take a distinctly non linear approach and wander hither and thither sometimes seemingly at random. ‘Going Forth By Day’ has a Spanish feel to the guitars and recalls Matt Elliott’s recent classical guitar-led solo work, clarinet joins the piece and this is one of the albums more obviously melodic moments and is better for it.
Despite Colleen’s beautiful singing style I have found some of the pieces samey and so a non vocal interlude here and there provides a nice breather which in this case prepares you for the lovely ‘The Moon and a Bell’ which has layered vocals over the carefully picked guitars. Yet the best is saved for last, the title track is a stunning affair, thumb picked strings pluck away, the voice intertwining to great effect, not far, in feel, to some of the more ambiguous moments on Sun Kil Moon’s ‘Admiral Fell Promises’, but once the staccato strings come in you know you are in very different territory indeed.
Overall this is a fine experiment in pushing Colleen’s music forward into new areas, parts of which I found frustratingly indeterminate yet contains enough moments of pastoral, picked beauty to provide a lovely soundtrack to late summer evenings.
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