Colleen: A Flame My Love, A Frequency

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

The results are detailed and even somewhat finicky as if Colleen only wants to use a minimum of sound/language to communicate big contemplative conceptions.


A Flame My Love, A Frequency

(Thrill Jockey)

Release Date: 20 Oct 2017

Colleen is an experimental artist whose music defies easy description. On her new release, she offers the blips and beeps of electronica, whispery vocals with enigmatic lyrics, short-repeated rhythms with classical inflections, reverb with repetition, loops, and other such materials to create sonic pieces that are simultaneously cold yet intimate. There are a pulse and a heart inside the controlled environments. The beats, tempos and stray sounds cue the listener to breathe deeply. Colleen's music implores one to relax and pay attention to one's thoughts/feelings like a meditative mantra.

Before this album, Colleen (multi-instrumentalist Cécile Schott), played the viola de gamba as her primary instrument. This time she uses Critter and Guitari synthesizers and a Moog filter pedal to make her graceful and sensitive compositions. The songs themselves are relatively short, two to eight minutes in length, and invoke time and seasons with such titles as "November", "Summer Night", "Winter Dawn". Although their names suggest something general such as the weather the songs' particular concerns indicate she celebrates specific past experiences (i.e., what happened that one early morning in winter). The results are detailed and even somewhat finicky as if Colleen only wants to use a minimum of sound/language to communicate big contemplative conceptions.

This is not the first time Colleen has vocalized on a recording. She sings softly to suggest she's revealing confidential, secret personal information. The topics here are existential. The inspiration for many of the songs came after a visit to Paris during the same time as the Friday 13 November 2015 attack by gunmen and suicide bombers that hit an Eagles of Death Metal concert, a major sports stadium, restaurants and bars that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. She started to compose the songs on this album soon after these events.

Colleen is clearly on the side of life. As she sings on the poetic "The Stars vs. The Creatures", the heavenly bodies may "have the last word" but just one feather of a Kingfisher is worth more than a thousand stars" -- the living world contains much more than inorganic gasses will ever contain. The reality of death only heightens the meaning of life.

On instrumental tracks such as "One Warm Spark", she dreamily expresses her wonder at what she experiences. Without words, Colleen goes on a voyage to "Another World", as she says in the title of another song. She treads lightly as she journeys. The music sounds wistful even as its rhythms are attentive.

And on the cuts that combine extended vocal and instrumental sections, such as "Separating" and the one from which the recording gets its name, "A Flame My Love, A Frequency", Colleen uses silence and sparse arrangements to add a formal touch to the proceedings. There's more than a touch of the funereal on the latter piece that ends the record as the synths sound like a traditional Church organ before turning into a fading cyclic hum. The sense of an ending that doesn't entirely end implies the resonance all life has on the world in which we live. Even after we are gone, our imprint remains.

Related Articles Around the Web

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.