Colleen - A flame my love, a frequency

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2017-10-20
Colleen - A flame my love, a frequency
Colleen - A flame my love, a frequency

I have fallen in love with Colleen's new album, A flame my love, a frequency. I'm also shocked that I have never heard of Cécile Schott, the woman behind the name, before this, as her music is a thing of beauty. The album was inspired by, or perhaps more accurately influenced by, the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 that happened while Schott was in France. The album is intended as a reflection of the close connection between life and death, and does a wonderful job, as it consistently sounds both mournful and hopeful, tugging the inside of my chest with an inexpressible feeling that wants to burst out.

What makes this album work so well is how simple it is. There's no huge network of effects and modulations. The core of the music are its clean melodies, backed by just a smidgen of Schott's singing. And everything here is so delightfully analog, almost antique sounding. The synths used, Moogs and Critter and Guitaris, provide an extremely retro sound, not in the sense of 1970s Kraftwerk or Eno, but all the way back to 1960s electronic pioneer Raymond Scott, with just a touch of tinny hollowness to create real warmth. The lead off track, 'November', might be the purest distillation of this sensibility, being a quick two-minute instrumental, but the entire set stays true to it.

Second track 'Separating' is where the album settles into its groove, with lots of layered melodies and electronic noodling, and sweet, unobtrusive vocals by Schott consisting mostly of her repeating the title of the track. 'Another World' sounds like a tiny toy parade on the moon, perhaps something that would be played in an old-timey Space Age promotional movie. As with many of the songs, there's a sweet innocence in its intentions, a complete lack of artifice, that makes it utterly charming. 'The Stars vs Creatures' is similar, with a staircasing synth that goes up and down, up and down, modulating itself over and over before exploding into a delicate nova of melody flying in every direction before returning to its origins.

'One Warm Spark' sounds like its kneeding the cosmic dough, rolling and folding stars and galaxies into something delicious. The perpetual turnover of the notes here brings to mind the effervescent stylings of Ray Lynch's 'Celestial Soda Pop' on his classic 1984 album Deep Breakfast. There's a bit of a change-up with 'Winter Dawn', which has more of a warbling, grinding quality, something like a piece of a metal being see-sawed gently back and forth in the background as the bubbling synths bounce around. 'Summer Night (Bat Song)' goes the other direction again, with endless organ pads acting as a raft to carry Schott's breathy vocals across a vast ocean of space.

The closing title track is like being in a church on Mars, very grand and epic, but also slow and meditative. "I will call you when the sun has reached the final hour," Schott croons over droning organs, and it feels like a eulogy for Earth. Here in particular the music brings to mind the odd wanderings of Laurie Anderson on her Big Science album for some reason.

There's something deeply profound about this album. It absolutely fulfills is grand aspirations; born as it was in tragedy, it ultimately feels like a very healing body of music. Would that more of our society tended in this direction.

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