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Colleen – Weighing of the Heart

Second Language

Colleen - The Weighing of the Heart Every now and then, when I need to kill sometime on the internet, I have a checklist of web sites that I’ll go through and have a peek at. The website of Cécile Schott’s project Colleen is one of them. From my sporadic infrequent checks I’d noticed that it had been notably gathering cobwebs from the web spiders (bad cyber-spiel joke). Then a post appeared in August 2011 that was titled “A long account of why I’ve been Silent” Amongst other things, it explains a moment, while on tour where Mrs Schott lost all recognition of where she was.

It was one of those moments when suddenly you realize that something has to change.”

Personally speaking this happens to me on a daily basis, not to mention those moments when I wake up in my own house and wonder: who is responsible for the outstanding décor? However, these moments never seem to promote a needed change in me. If I’ve lost track of exactly what day it is I know I’m getting somewhere, where? Somewhere outside the bounds of the ridiculous formalities of the boxed cage that is weekday names! What I really mean is: Freedom from the human world. Why do we have to get ourselves fitting neatly into boxes and cages all the time?

My grandmother, who I got on pretty well with, had a stroke some years ago and has since passed on. On one of many visits to her in the old people’s home we had many conversations where she clearly had no idea who I actually was, but one thing was sure, she liked me and I liked her. I was someone to be trusted, unlike the staff or fellow inhabitants of the home. Her memory might have gone but her judgement remained. I suffer from an insanely unreliable short term memory, but I’ve learned to adapt to it and have since learnt that a new found freedom can be attained if you only stop worrying about it and accept the situation, and just like my grandmother, because of this acceptance we were able to have some fun times despite the confusion.

Forgetting where you’re meant to travel to at the point where you need to be boarding the required transport might have a few more problems involved though, I must accept.

So a change occurred. Schott stopped listening to and making music, moved to Spain and adopted pottery as a way to express herself. Awhile passed after this post and the web spiders crept back in and I gave up checking, then out of the blue, a new album appeared.

I’ve always been attracted to instrumental music and have been wracking my brains as to a reason why. This is what I’ve come up with so far: With vocals and words, all of a sudden, the listener is given a context and a visual reference to associate the music with, where without the voice and lyrics the mind is freer to apply whatever narrative it wants. That famous shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho when the viewer never sees a knife going into the victim, only the sounds and shots of the struggle. It’s left up to the viewer’s imagination and therefore the violence is amplified. I’ve always figured that people who are into noise and drone music (creators and listeners alike) generally have a wilder imagination and don’t need so many prompts to get lost in music. So it came as a surprise when the first sound on Weighing of the Heart came in was the sound of a voice, Cécile Schott’s voice to be precise. Context and lyrics are present and lands of solitude and beautiful simplicity are painted in the mind.

The album starts with “Push The Boat Onto The Sand,” as though Schott has been lost at sea all this time and is coming back to push her boat back onto the shore of her audience. Yet saying that, the music combined with the repeating lyrics gives you the impression of pushing the boat onto many different lands. I guess Schott has had time to travel to many places of the mind in the past six years.

The album was recorded over a prolonged period in the dead of night when everyone had gone to bed, which seems to give the album a distance from the human world perhaps. You can really feel the sense of space and silence on the record. A sense of space, where Schott can stretch out her musical ideas to their fullest capabilities. With the addition of the vocals you get a sense of a very personal story being told through the music and lyrics and at times you feel like you’re in the studio with her as the moon – which is referenced in two of the songs – beams down outside.

At times the vocals and clear sterile sounds bring to mind other female-led pop groups such as Stereolab and Broadcast but don’t fear – there are no over forced beats, which is what attracted me to Colleen in the first place. Howeve,r with the album being heavily influenced by Moondog, we hear instruments, sounds and repeating vocals used as percussive tools that get our toes tapping.

The collected output of Colleen contains some of the most poignant and thought provoking music of our generation. It’s no surprise that filmmakers are clambering over themselves to use it in their projects. This is film soundtrack gold dust. You get the impression that there are perfect films for the sounds just waiting to manifest themselves into existence.

The last song “Weighing of the Heart” contains the words “make me righteous/make me triumphant,” almost like a prayer to the gods. From my recent research of DMT, a naturally occurring chemical found in the brain responsible for dreams and other ‘otherworldly’ adventures, I’ve learnt that Weighing of the Heart is a belief in Egyptian mythology, where at death your heart is put on a set of scales and its weight will determine whether you go on into the afterlife or not. With this being Schott’s first journey into the land of the voice, perhaps she felt her musical world died in 2009 (when she stopped playing) and now her audience can hear her voice for the first time. They will be weighing up her music, which you get the impression contains all of her heart.

I for one say: pass on Colleen to the next realm and get to making more music!

-Harry Wheeler-

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