A Flame My Love, A Frequency

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An album about the connectedness of everything could be vague at best or pretentious at worst, but in Colleen's hands, it's a thing of profound beauty. A Flame My Love, A Frequency captures her reflections on a year shaped by two very different events: While on tour in August 2015, she discovered a Critter and Guitari synthesizer that ultimately replaced her beloved viola de gamba on this album. That November, she returned to Paris after visiting an ailing relative, arriving hours before the terror attacks that horrified the world. Coming to terms with these events changed Colleen's music, just as introducing the viola de gamba on 2007's Les Ondes Silencieuses and her vocals on 2013's The Weighing of the Heart did. Putting aside the viola de gamba -- which had provided the backbone to her previous album, the adventurous Captain of None -- and focusing on synths and delay, enhances the otherworldly quality of Colleen's music as she explores the ties between fear and hope, joy and loss, and body and soul. Even when dealing with subjects this deep and vast, her light touch transforms them into songs that are intimate, serene, yet constantly changing. As on Captain of None, she sets a mood of beautiful contemplation and uses space as a thoughtful, peaceful element, particularly on "Separating," where the synths flutter and wander as Colleen muses "Separating from the world/Is like a drop of rain/Falling to the ocean floor/It's just impossible." There's a magical quality to the album's arrangements that seems to make time stop, or at least bend to Colleen's whims, on instrumentals such as the radiant "One Warm Spark" and the weightless, beatless techno of "Another World," both of which feel like they caress the air. When Colleen adds her voice to the mix, A Flame My Love, A Frequency becomes even more transfixing. Her vocals and melodies gather new nuances as they echo and fade, shifting subtly like changing light on songs such as "Summer Night (Bat Song)" and "The Stars vs. the Creatures," a fable that pits the eternal beauty of the heavens against the fleeting loveliness of animals and evokes both with shimmering, twinkling textures. Loveliest of all, perhaps, is "Winter Dawn," which begins with the album's most literal statement ("The world had nearly ended yet the sky was blue/And I came home with a fistful of fear") before gradually making its way toward lighter territory. Throughout it all, A Flame My Love, A Frequency resonates with a healing warmth that is a testament to the remarkable purity of Colleen's music, as well as to the importance of beauty and hope when life is hard.

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