A Flame My Love, A Frequency by ColleenRelease date: October 20, 2017
Label: Thrill Jockey
Colleen makes very personal, instinctive music and her sixth album is a delicate, introspective wonder. If the title hasn’t already tipped you off, we’re in the realm of the poetic here. ‘A Flame My Love, A Frequency‘ is an album about feeling small amid the terror and beauty of the vast universe. It’s not a party record then, but neither is it a despairing dark night of the soul. More of a melancholy meditation perhaps.
A couple of years ago Colleen (Cecile Schott), now living in Spain, found herself back in her former home town Paris happily soaking up its unique atmosphere and beauty. It was Friday 13th November, the afternoon before the terror attacks that included The Bataclan and Stade De France tore through the city. Not long afterwards she began working on the songs that would come to make up this album. Loosely intended to follow a year in her life, these are not really songs about those incidents so much as the bigger questions such horrors cause us to ponder, most keenly represented in the opening lines of centrepiece ‘Winter Dawn’ – “The world had nearly ended yet the sky was blue“. The track has an accompanying video of marbling ink on water, it provides a slowly shifting, organic abstraction that almost perfectly mirrors the music’s pulsing, overlapping swirls of synth. When she sings it’s in a gentle affectless whisper, like thoughts escaping on her breath, like someone talking in their sleep.
On the title track she sighs over droning chords like a young Nico, before cigarettes and the darkness took her. The “descending milky night” refrain of ‘Summer Night (Bat song)’ evokes Laetitia Sadier – should she ever make a record while lost and broken in the half light of dawn. Her last couple of records saw Colleen looping and processing acoustic instruments and subjecting them to various production techniques but this time she’s moved to working with a couple of synths and a delay pedal.
These tracks were recorded live with few edits and no vocal overdubs making for a direct, more simplified sound world but the circling motifs and drawn out structures of her writing remain, giving the feel of a natural progression more than a stark break. While the album is essentially beatless it is full of fidgety, rhythmic loops pushing it forwards – at it’s most propulsive on ‘Another Dawn’ you brace for a snare crack that never comes. It’s crying out for a more robust dancefloor rework, and yet you can’t help feel it would brutishly crush the track’s charm. It’s the subtlety with which she draws on her new stripped down set of tools that does most to carry the record’s mood.
Colleen is a determinedly singular musician, following her own crooked, intuitive path and she continues to unearth delights. ‘A Flame My Love, A Frequency‘ is an absorbing listen and, like the world it considers, a sad and beautiful thing.