Loopy beauty from French multi-instrumentalist Cecile Schott a.k.a Colleen. Playing the baroque instrument, treble viola da gamba, and singing in a folky whisper, she brings to mind the loop-based works of Robert Fripp or more recently Dustin Wong but with a stronger leaning towards songcraft. Out on CD and vinyl LP from Thrill Jockey.
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With the treble viola da gamba as her primary source of sound -- plus a lot of big ideas about looping the strings until they’re off the grid -- Colleen makes a record of charming mindfuckery and altered composition. ‘Captain of None’ is a wonderful example of phasing baroque, of reinventing sound that should be revered, not toyed with. There’s beauty to be found in dismissing beauty and fucking with our perceptions of it.
Mostly, I’m reminded of Dustin Wong and his estranged relationship with guitars; the results are similarly icy and cyclical, offering songs that find familial motifs in songs further down the line. Colleen is more of a songwriter, though, and her affectations -- to make the viola tremble and echo and repeat -- are there to contribute to proper overtures and real songs. Straight from second song “I’m Kin”, Colleen’s soft, dramatically whispered voice appears, surrounded by plucked strings that at times sound dampened and occasionally become sharply intoned. What’s most impressive is Colleen’s constant tradeoff of instrumental work with more conventionally driven songcraft; the effect is that an ambient framework exists for her to visit and rest on, whenever she should need to sing.
Coleen offers the viola in different shades: pastorally, as in the syncopating “Lighthouse”, which eventually draws in different layers of her voice, or abstractly, as on “Eclipse”, which collates raw field sounds against the gentle, homogenous hum of the record. Her versatility combines with an affection for playing old music in new ways, and the result is a startling record of ambient pop.
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