Release Date: Apr 7, 2015
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Post-Rock
Although Cécile Schott's music as Colleen is consistently lovely, it has changed subtly, but significantly, with each release. Captain of None, her Thrill Jockey debut, is no exception. As Schott builds on the acoustic instrumentation she began incorporating on The Golden Morning Breaks and the vocals she introduced on The Weighing of the Heart, she delivers some of her boldest, most eclectic music yet.
The border between electronic music and everything else is fuzzy sometimes. Take Cécile Schott, a French artist who made her reputation in the mid-'00s with a string of albums for Leaf that split the difference between folk, chamber pop and ambient. After mastering the style with 2007's Les Ondes Silencieuses, which she called "a modern album with baroque instruments," Schott got frustrated and abandoned her musical career for other pursuits.
[The following is a poem inspired by the music of Colleen and, in particular, her new album, Captain of None. Yeah, I know… But this isn’t (totally) a beg-off from writing a no-nonsense review for you to consult before proceeding to Thrill Jockey checkout (which I highly recommend). I’ll make it as plain as brackets for you now, then you can read and listen along or just move along: Cecile Schott has been making immaculate little confections from acoustic instruments, loops, and reverb on and off since 2003’s critically lauded Everyone Alive Wants Answers.
Despite what you might hear on Captain of None, Colleen is a folk musician at heart. Although over five full-lengths, Cécile Schott (a.k.a. Colleen) has openly flirted with sleek electronic beats and avant-garde song structures, much of the French musician's sound emanates from her knack for expressive storytelling and organic musical communication.
Captain of None, the sixth solo album from Colleen (née French multi-instrumentalist Cécile Schott), is the product of an unusual series of creative decisions. Her primary instrument is once again a Renaissance-era treble viola da gamba, and she does all she can to extend its conventional range of sounds, drawing direct inspiration from the studio techniques of dub masters Lee "Scratch" Perry and King Tubby for English-language songs featuring her own vocals. The gut-string viola da gamba first appeared in the mid-15th century and it's seldom heard these days outside of early music ensembles.
French artist Cécile Schott (aka Colleen) focuses her songwriting on the viola da gamba, a string instrument that saw its heyday centuries ago — but you wouldn’t suspect that listening to her new album, Captain of None. Despite the instrument’s baroque origins, Colleen loops, delays, plucks, and pops the thing into a mesmerizing stream. Since her 2003 debut, Schott has spread her wings considerably, reaching from songs indebted to the viol’s early music bowing to the dubby experimentalism heard here.
Sometimes, despite my immediate inclinations, it's a good thing for an artist to draw back from minimalism and gravitate towards a musical form that's more approachable. I make no bones about my love for the slow, extended, lengthy drone works of string composers such as Tony Conrad, Charlemagne Palestine or Pauline Oliveros, who make tracks often over an hour in length and dwell unflinchingly on the subtle textures and nuances that certain -often, but not always "traditional"- instruments produce. French artist Cécile Schott, aka Colleen, has never, to my knowledge, recorded an hour-long drone piece on her favoured viola da gamba, but her music up until recently was doggedly restrained, especially on 2007's Les Ondes Silencieuses; a bleak, shadowy and stripped-down esquisse of the modern chamber music scene.
Having made such an assured step forward with 2013’s The Weighing Of The Heart on Second Language, it was perhaps inevitable that a larger and more globally-reaching label such as Thrill Jockey would sign up Cécile Schott (AKA Colleen) for this sequel set. Paradoxically, despite such a leg-up, Captain Of None is a far more elusive affair. Whereas its pensive predecessor hermetically-sealed in lush yet minimalist Moondog-inspired soundscapes as backdrops for Schott’s first proper vocal/song-based material, for a serene self-contained statement, this follow-up is a far more open-ended and amorphous creation.