French musician Cécile Schott has been producing intricate, mesmerising, profound music as Colleen since the early 2000s. Her newest LP, A Flame My Love, A Frequency, was composed in the wake of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. It reflects on the interlacing of life and death.
Schott began playing the guitar as a “Beatles-obsessed teenager”. Her long and varied discography (she has released six albums on Thrill Jockey, The Leaf Label, and Second Language since 2003) has traversed phases of diverse instrumental settings and approaches. Earlier in her songwriting career, with Everyone Alive Wants Answers, she used loops or “skips” to weave the patchwork surface of a meditative sonic tapestry. She has experimented and recorded with a wide range of tools – harp, music box, glockenspiel, cello, melodica, clarinet, etc., – though most notably perhaps with viola da gamba, the baroque string instrument that has been a long-term source of inspiration. Across consistent creative evolution, her work is united by a devotion to considering existential questions through minutely detailed, contemplative music.
A Flame My Love, A Frequency reflects upon a year that began in August 2015. On the way back to her home in Spain from visit with a very ill relative in France, Schott decided to spend the night in her former home of Paris to take her viola bow for repair at a luthier in the Republique area: “It was late afternoon and she remembers the beauty of Paris and people sitting and enjoying the cafés. That was November 13th, and a mere four hours later these very same cafés were the scene of utter terror and death.”
Though she had planned to use the viola da gamba for the album, a chance encounter with a Critter and Guitari synthesizer at King Britt’s Philadelphia studio on the Captain of None album tour cracked the compositional model wide open. As a result, this cycle of delicate, light-footed songs exploring “the inescapable fact that life and death always walk hand in hand” was made through a symbiosis of the expressions of man and machine.