COLLEEN: Les Ondes Silencieuses (The Leaf Label)
Les Ondes Silencieuses
The Leaf Label 2007
09 Tracks. 43mins20secs
Buy it: CD | LP
Colleen | The Leaf Label
The twist on Colleen’s third album title, which translates as ‘The quiet waters’ but can also be interpreted as ‘The silent soundwaves’, reveals a lot about the content of the record. Gone are the complex electronic experimentations of previous records, replaced with simple melodies and crystal-pure acoustic instrumentation. While Paris-based Cecile Schott had already made a substantial step towards real instrumentation on her previous album, The Golden Morning Breaks (2005), there were still traces of the electronic treatments she had applied on previous outputs. For Les Ondes Silencieuses, Schott relies solely on instruments such as viola da gamba, which she already used on The Golden Morning Breaks, spinet, a relative of the harpsichord, both dating from the baroque period, as well as classical guitar, clarinet and crystal glasses.
Schott’s Radio France commission Colleen Et Les Boîtes A Musiques, released last year, already partly hinted at more delicate and introvert forms than previous work. This new album offers a series of wonderfully emotional and contemplative compositions revealing at long last the chore of Schott’s work in its full glory. Right from the opening moment of This Place In Time, the rich tones of the viola da gamba are layered in harmonic formations, ranging from sombre overtones in the lower registers to lighter nuances in the upper octaves. The pace is voluntarily slow, with silences carefully assimilated into the sonic canvas of the piece. This is a process that Schott repeats throughout the record, giving each composition a particular dimension. The melody of the title track is punctuated with pauses which serve to highlight the emotional scope of the piece. Equally, on Echoes And Coral, entirely played on crystal glasses, the chime-like resonance of each glass and the silences between notes is intrinsically part of the music.
Elsewhere, Colleen creates rich soundscapes by simply layering different instances of the same instrument, most prominently on Blue Sands and, to a lesser extent, Le Bateau, where the viola da gamba, in turn plucked, struck with mallets or played with a bow, is given impressive sonic depth. The sharp metallic tones of the spinet rains on Le Labyrinthe like an invigorating spring shower, especially in its second half where the pace becomes more alert, while a melancholic clarinet wraps its warm tones around the almost medieval guitar phrases on the stunning Sun Against My Eyes and Sea Of Tranquillity.
Colleen has consistently taken brave steps since she first appeared, determined to follow her singular path without compromises. Les Ondes Silencieuses is the logical development of her earlier experimentations. Relying solely on acoustic instruments, a process which she has perfected through her live performances, she creates here a magnificent piece of work, all in nuances and gentles tones, which is undoubtedly destined to eclipse her previous work and inform her journey ahead.