I love musical instruments: it's fascinating that craftsmanship of wood and metal can lead to such a range of rich, complex sounds, as well as truly beautiful physical objects. As clearly does Colleen, whose third album luxuriates in the sound of acoustic instruments. Now fully moved away from sampling and electronic manipulation, Cécile Schott now composes pure minimal instrumentals, on viola da gamba, spinet (variant of harpsichord), classical guitar, clarinet and more, without a tape loop in sight.
But "Les Ondes Silencieuses" is frustrating to listen to, as it stubbornly focuses on one aspect of music - the sound colour of the instruments, unconcerned with melody or form. It's made up from little fragments of tunes, but they're never developed. Its austerity puts me in mind of a museum - listening to it is like tiptoeing around the displays of antique instruments in awed reverence. Their sounds are admired, but not fully experienced. Like looking at fragments of an ancient relic - it's as if only the enlightened and educated have the imagination to see the hidden whole.
As the title suggests, the melodic fragments often are separated by meaningful silences, but while these give you space to admire the individual sounds they don't seem to be part of a bigger whole. "This Place In Time" and the title track evoke a crafstman testing an antique viol, lovingly but deliberately placing a series of chords, letting each one linger to consider its resonance. There's occasionally a sense of direction - on the spinet-based "Le Labyrinthe", the tentative broken chords eventually coalesce into church-bell-style descending scales, but it seems too academic and finger-exercisey. Though "Sea of Tranquillity" does flow nicely, with its melodies forming a a smooth arching shape above a constant classical guitar figure.
The stubborn, purist motivation behind the album shouldn't take anything away from the beauty of simple, single sounds. "Echoes And Coral" experiments with the resonances of crystal glass. The loveliest moments are made by the way the clarinet is played on "Sun Against My Eyes" and "Sea of Tranquillity". Feathery, timid but controlled, with a hint of a jazzy, Miles Davis-like expressiveness.
August 5, 2007