Colleen – A Flame My Love, a Frequency (Thrill Jockey)

0010851763_10Inspired by horror and tragedy, A Flame My Love, A Frequency by Colleen (aka Cécile Schott), is inspired by Cécile’s proximity to the awful mass murder committed in Paris on November 2015 at the Bataclan music venue and some of the surrounding bars and cafes in the Republique area. Cécile was in the area just hours before the events. A Flame is a concept album of sorts, reflecting on the close relationship between life and death. The notes accompanying the album state the theme is intended to be mirrored in the practice of A Flame, each song recorded live with little editing, a close symbiosis formed between the artist and her instrument, a Critter and Guitari Pocket Piano; life and not in creative unison. This may stretch the idea a little toward its breaking point but it has nonetheless resulted in some brilliant music.

 

The organic mulch and music box tinkling of Colleen’s previous more ambient releases continues to recede into the distance on A Flame, after the whirling dub-pop of previous album Captain Of None. Colleen here moves one more step away from her machine and pedal manipulated viola works into pure electronics, with the addition of her reverberating voice a hangover from Captain of None‘s echo-chamber. Retaining also that album’s conciseness and focus, these compositions are more like synth process workthroughs: melodic cogs in proliferating layers and complications; bright clear electronic tones emitting bloops, blips, clicks and cuts. The arpeggiating Another World is a spritely and lush example.

 

A Fire is an album that bubbles with hope. The final, title track, is wonderful. Long sustained chords and the repetition of “rain, rain, rain” and a promise to call someone at sunset. The song, and album, at its close, slips over the horizon in soft, subtle fashion. The poignancy of some of Colleen’s previous work is surprisingly muted in this release, given the subject matter, the majority of songs have instead an uplifting, synapse-firing spikiness, bouncy and bright, its structural gears meshed tightly. The album’s aim is best communicated in Separating, where ‘separating from the world’ is as impossible as a drop of rain falling to the ocean floor. In this context, A Fire is a plea for people to engage with each other. It is a light but inspiring creation; a flame to warm around and a frequency to hum in sympathy with: acts of connection, union and positivity; things we all need more of.

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