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8 May 2011

Colleen - 'The Golden Morning Breaks' (Leaf)

I never understood why Cécile Schott uses the stage name Colleen - it's kinda like if someone named Dave went by a stage name of Kevin. But that's totally her right, just as it's her right to put out a record with such a ludicrous album cover. If Colleen is going for the 'fey, fairy girl who talks to unicorns' vibe then I guess she chose well; the music on this record is certainly a green, expansive pasture of delicate miniatures, and it's about as far away from the Paris city where she is based as one could imagine. This is her second album, which moves away from the reliance on looping pedals that the first LP used, though there are still several electronic-rooted tracks, such as 'The Happy Sea'. But the waves of digital soundbliss here are layered with quietly plinking natural sound. This is a great record to listen to on vinyl as it's warm and engulfing, with lots of close-mic'd zither, particularly on side one. The zither is really the star of the album, or at least something zitherlike; 'Mining in the Rain' is a classical example of a sound miniature, balancing a zither melody with the creaking of chair or some other room ambience. The hesistations between each note are exquisite; there's a genuine fragility that speaks heaps through it's economy. Compositionally, everything stays small and horizontal; I guess these sketches are really just improvisations that have been worked over. Leaf is a good label for her as she's midway between mild, beatless electronica and Jeweled Antler-style sound-drawings. Fidelity-wise, though, she's a world away from the lackadaisical approach of the Americans, and I think The Golden Morning Breaks is a strong record for it (despite occasional digital clipping, used as a texture). By the end of the first side, I'd adapted my own listening to the slow pace of Colleen's work, and found myself enraptured by 'I'll Read You A Story' as it undulates. The longest track is the closer, 'Everything Lay Still', which layers cello and twinkling bells into a blanket of calm. It rises to a narcotic state, stops to look around, and then steps back into the horizon. I sort of feel like Colleen's style of constructed, low-energy soundworld has become a common thing, though I can't really think of many other examples, and certainly in 2005 this felt really fresh and original. The Golden Morning Breaks really is a coherent album, a story in some ways, which begins with the delicate twinkles of 'Summer Water' and ends with 'Everything Lay Still's inverted currents.

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