Album Review: A Flame My Love, a Frequency by Colleen
Excellent, Based on 8 Critics
AllMusic - 90 Based on rating 9/10
An album about the connectedness of everything could be vague at best or pretentious at worst, but in Colleen's hands, it's a thing of profound beauty. A Flame My Love, A Frequency captures her reflections on a year shaped by two very different events: While on tour in August 2015, she discovered a Critter and Guitari synthesizer that ultimately replaced her beloved viola de gamba on this album. That November, she returned to Paris after visiting an ailing relative, arriving hours before the terror attacks that horrified the world.
How to wring optimism from tragedy? How to go about day-to-day life in the wake of senseless violence? These are the questions Colleen, real name Cécile Schott, grapples with on her sixth album. The first track on A Flame My Love, A Frequency is called "November," the month Schott visited an ailing relative in France and stopped off for a night in her former home, Paris, to drop off her viola bow for repair. She walked in the sunshine and had dinner with friends.
“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.” “It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…” “Yes, that is so,” said the fox. “But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince. “Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
For about 15 years, Cécile Schott has explored her ideal sound world with tools ranging from samples and synths to classical guitar and viola da gamba. Her fifth record, 2015's Captain of None, used mainly her voice and treble viola da gamba, but for her newest record, she switched out the viola da gamba for just synths and effects pedals. The result, A Flame My Love, a Frequency, is just as shimmering and lush as any of her past work, thanks to her refined compositional approach to looping, layering and tweaking her instrumental and vocal ….
"The world had nearly ended yet the sky was blue, and I came home with a fistful of fear," remembers electronic composer Cécile Schott on "Winter Dawn," a line that captures all the weighty preoccupations of her seventh album as Colleen. Written in the aftermath of the 2015 terror attack in Paris, "Winter Dawn" is cold and hard as a snowglobe, a compact container of chaos. It's also the explanatory anchor of A flame my love, a frequency, a quietly devastating album defined by Schott's enviable economy of expression.
Cécile Schott aka Colleen has been making albums for well over a decade now, but her seventh album A flame my love, a frequency is a very conscious and practical rebirth of her sound. On past releases her instrument of choice has been the viola da gamba, surrounded by other minimal stringed instruments, but on A flame… she has dropped these traditional implements for electronic ones. Here she has restricted herself to using Critter and Guitari pocket synthesizers with some Moog effects pedals to accompany her voice.
Cécile Schott (aka Colleen) likes to keep it fresh. Having only recently introduced vocals to her immaculate ambient compositions, the French multi-instrumentalist throws up another curveball on Colleen's sixth LP by dropping her instrumental mainstay— the viola da gamba— for a Septavox synthesizer. The result is more alien than any of Schott's previous conceptions.
One constant to Colleen's ever-evolving approach to music-making has been the way she delicately assembles her lo-fi soundscapes - it's also one of the most alluring qualities of her discography to date. Despite remaining restless as an artist and changing her approach each time she gets comfortable, her style has remained distinct across eight albums and 14 years. A flame my love, a frequency continues a delicate line of thought first established on 2003's Everyone Alive Wants Answers.