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The Tunnel and the Clearing Danijela Bočev , May 21st, 2021 08:04

Colleen's seventh album finds the French multi-instrumentalist at her most minimal and her most emotionally raw, finds Danijela Bočev

Restraint has always worked well for Cécile Schott’s creative practice, now spanning two decades under the Colleen moniker. The French multi-instrumentalist’s enchanted sonic explorations tell a Proustian tale in haiku form.

Inspired by African and Jamaican musicians’ ethos of maximising creativity with a modest setup, Colleen’s singular sound is informed by principles not the emulating of another’s style. Influences like Arthur Russell, Lee Perry, or even Broadcast appear pleasantly oblique, like a washed-out collage. Following a particular instrumental focus on each album, her eighth centres the organ, enhanced by a carefully reduced set of analogue electronics. With just six items of gear, Schott crafted the most intricate tapestry of minimally composed, contemplative moods with a beating heart underneath.

Her characteristic stream of sound, as ever, documents deceptively small moments that make up the hushed drama of life. There is nothing here that can’t go perfectly unnoticed, yet it all feels as vital as hanging by a thread. The restless, swirling pulse of its patient progression catches both the urgency and fragility of life.

Schott’s is an unassumingly inventive creative trajectory full of revelations, if not revolutions. Putting to rest the myth of needing to express yourself only if feverishly possessed by some creative power, her process subjectively reshapes lived experience. When on ‘Hidden in the Current’ she triumphs singing “I finally woke up”, it reads like an enlightening inversion of realities. Creative osmosis leads to waking up into a dream you are crafting out of pieces of phenomenal reality. The individual dream may be impenetrable, but art is a dream we let others wake into.

There is a sense here of being lost in the world but deeply interconnected with the environment. A walk is a head-clearing meditation, similar to Cecile’s practice of birdwatching, an observational tactic reversing the ruminating gaze outwards onto the beauty of life. Between inside and out, Colleen’s sound captures the reverberations in the communication tunnel, all the blips and hushes, clicks and hums, what she calls her “emotional noise”.

Her most subtly exhilarating groove, ‘Implosion-Explosion’ reveals the dynamics of the self’s neverending internal struggle with the environment. A hint of anger to propel things outwards, a touch of truth to pierce the protective bubble – it all feels vital for her sense of balance.

In the wake of a series of life-changing personal events, Schott’s celestial soundscapes acquired lucid emotional poignancy. “Never before had I felt so profoundly the power that music has, through harmony, melody, rhythm and sound itself, to express the whole range of human emotions,” she says. A gradual unfolding of creative consciousness in real-time, long evolving in a psychotropic loop of self-invention, her journey culminates on The Tunnel and the Clearing in hard-earned clarity.