June 17, 2013

Review: Colleen | The Weighing Of The Heart

The Weighing Of The Heart is a rippling mirage, a quest for a personal peace, a map with vectors pointing both outward and inward, a shifting destination that finally stopped slipping away when former French schoolteacher, now resident Spaniard, Cecille Schott delivered her new, fourth full-length. The set arrives six years in the wake of her 2007 collection, Les Ondes Silencieuses. During her silent span of time, Ms. Schott, the sole member of Colleen, struggled with doubt, writer's block and the development of certain technical skills in order to realize The Weighing Of The Heart. The record takes its title from The Egyptian Book Of The Dead, but in a general sense the name is almost startlingly fitting, as it suggests a testing of mettle that recent press about Schott confirms. And while The Weighing Of The Heart (again, generally) suggests a process, the record itself represents a destination for both Colleen and her fans, a destination that would seem to possess its own singular collection of secrets.

The record is a cool dreamscape of electro acoustic sounds, more often than not neatly arranged across an expanse of aural space like complete skeletons of fantastic birds surfacing under brushes from strata. Although The Weighing Of The Heart is characteristically dreamy and mesmerizing, and is in that sense definitely a "Colleen record," there are significant new elements brought to bear. The other-worldly character of Colleen's music is enhanced by the newest and perhaps most potent tool in Schott's sonic arsenal: her voice. While Colleen's prior records are instrumental affairs (and indeed, here widely heralded debut Everyone Alive Wants Answers was all instrumental samples), on The Weighing Of The Heart she almost exudes beautiful vocals, diaphanous, breathy, so intimate that even when double-tracked it is like she is whispering secrets in your ear, close enough that the hair stands up on the back of your neck. Schott's voice and chiaroscuro lyrical imagery recall that of Juana Molina. And whether it was something suggested by the cadence of the newly developed vocals, is the result of increased technical skill, or is the result of yet some other impulse, the 11 songs of The Weighing Of The Heart percolate with pronounced rhythms, sometimes gently swaying like a boat on the ocean, and at other times crackling and popping like an ancient, dusty automaton. There is even a head-bobbing percussion bridge in the almost-groovy "Going Forth By Day," and "Humming Fields," a bewitching composition whose beautiful chorus chants "in lonely fields I've been humming / only the grass overhearing / cat woke me up with his dreaming," burbles and twinkles across pretty layers of chimes, tambourine and drum.

Despite the contemplative and personal tone of Colleen's music, especially on this new collection, certain of her influences shine through, from Arthur Russell to Laurie Anderson (fans would be wise to stream the amazing "influences mix" Colleen curated to help promote her new record; it is available to stream via Soundcloud right here). The Weighing Of The Heart's "Ursa Major Find" commences with soft salvo of oooohs, but the creaking intrumental bed that takes shape thereafter echoes the melodic texture underlying Radiohead's "Weird Fishes." All that said, it is Schott's own ear for beautiful timbre and her melodic sense -- not her ability to synthesize recognizable sonic referents -- that makes her the dramatically intriguing and wholly arresting artist that she is.

The best news of all for Colleen fans came in recent blog posts by Schott, when she remarked that she has already been playing new songs (and covers) live. Further, after her three shows in Italy this week (including a set of improvised music Friday), she intends to return home to Spain to work on new music: hopefully fans won't have to wait quite as long to hear what incredible music Colleen creates next. In the meantime, stream all of The Weighing Of The Heart -- which was released May 13 by Second Language in the UK -- via the YouTube embed below, and purchase the record here. Colleen's three prior albums and EP are also presently being sold in a special, four-CD bundle for 20 pounds, which is a great deal even when factoring in the exchange rate (although we haven't looked at what shipping would be). Fans looking for the three Leaf-released full-lengths on vinyl are encouraged to check in with Beat Delete, a new-to-us concern that attempts to crowdfund vinyl releases of selected LPs.

Colleen: Internerds | Soundcloud | YouTube

No comments: