May 26, 2005

I’m afraid I don’t know all that much about Colleen, aside from the fact that Colleen’s real name is Cécile Schott and she hails from France. Actually, all I really know of her stems from Yancey Strickler’s email exchange with her. Two years ago, Everyone Alive Wants Answers (Leaf) seeped out from the undergrowth, a small debut that snuck in to give off a nimbus kin to Susuma Yukota in the Pop Ambient world. A song like “I Was Deep in a Dream and I Didn’t Know It” tucks all her motifs under a single snug blanket. Naïf plonks warmed by analog hiss (or is it by her breath, with just a hint of violet?), slowly accruing a drone, yet none of the elements quite distinct. Dreams of course, grasps loosened before surfacing, all intangible.

Her second record appears this month (on Leaf as well), The Golden Morning Breaks. Don’t interpret the ‘Breaks’ in the title as some sort of harbinger of a new trip-hop mindset. It’s instead a quote from John Dowland, who wrote lute songs around the time of Shakespeare. There are no words to accompany Morning Breaks, and yet Colleen’s reverence to Dowland reminds me of another instance of Dowland’s songs, in Philip K. Dick’s late-period virgin-birth reimagining, The Divine Invasion. Herein his protagonist, Herb Archer, is obsessed with an intergalactic pop sensation, singer Linda Fox, who vocalizes Dowland’s lute songs some centuries later in an expanded world of spaceships, colonized planets, psychotronic information-transfers, casual discourses on the Tetragrammaton, futuristic mix-tapes, and the second coming in the form of a little boy. The young messiah even tells Archer at one point: “She is not real. Linda Fox –she is a phantasm of yours. But I can make her real…it is I who makes the unreal into the real.”

No doubt Colleen is real, and yet the phantasmal, ungraspable aspect of her music is its most elegant quality. Glean the instrumentation, identify the lute, the harmonium, the chimes, the guitar and organ, the effects of reverb and delay, and still the cumulative effect eludes, the impact of these miniatures far more subtle, almost unnamable. I’d rather not delve into aspects of these songs (it’s nearing naptime). These words are but written on the sand when it comes to “Bubbles Which on the Water Swim” or the gentle notes and reversed chimes of “I’ll Read You a Story.” As if Colleen would, in Dowland’s words, “yeeld to that which reason is.”

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Andy Beta is a freelance writer for a variety of publications, including The Village Voice and City Pages.

The styPod | 8:00 am

3 Responses to “Colleen (Andy Beta)”
  1. Paul Irish Says:

    I always listen to ‘Ritournele’ in the bathtub. Though I’m not sure why…

  2. Ian Mathers Says:

    I always associate Dowland with “The Divine Invasion” so I’m glad you mentioned that - the reference to Yokota alone would have gotten me to check this out, but the rest of the entry is great too.

  3. Jonathan Galkin Says:

    I feed baby Noah to this in the morning. It is soothing for us both at that early hour. Really beautiful. I had actually just finished feeding him and checked my emails and there was yours with this as your weekly Stylus recommendation….well done Beta Max.

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