The Golden Morning Breaks

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On the surface, Colleen's second release is much like her debut, Everyone Alive Wants Answers. Born Cecile Schott, this young French artist with a determined D.I.Y. mentality still mixes melody and minimalism, favoring a warm, even dreamy sound which often sounds like a mixture of acoustic folk and Renaissance classical run through an electronic blender. Some older listeners might relate the music on this CD to the early work of Vini Reilly's the Durutti Column, which featured Reilly's delicate, shimmering guitar textures enhanced with overdubs, loops, and treatments. In fact, Schott's first CD was a completed, sampled creation (except for a bit of processed electric organ on one track), utilizing only her eclectic record collection and a friend's gift of some sampling software. But when the unexpected success of her first CD provided opportunities for touring, Schott realized that sitting on a stage with a laptop was not something she wanted to do -- even if she could pull it off. Schott had already acquired a respectable guitar technique -- the result of earlier involvement with student bands -- and she set out to develop expertise on other instruments, some of them rather esoteric, like the 19th century glass harmonicon, a glockenspiel-like instrument. In looking for instrumental sounds, her broad goal was to capture the same dreamy elegance that she had created using completely different means than on her first recording. Although instrumental resources are not enumerated in the liner notes to The Golden Morning Breaks, the attentive listener can discern various acoustic guitars, the aforementioned harmonicon, various simple electric pianos and organs, perhaps a harp, some primitive mallet instruments, and a few toy instruments, such as a hand-cranked music box. And even though all the instruments on this CD are acoustic, Schott is not shy about the use of effects boxes and treatments, so the ultimate effect is every bit as ethereal and atmospheric as that of her purely sampled previous recording. Some listeners may prefer their technology laid bare, and admittedly, in Everyone Alive Wants Answers, the process was a big part of the product, creating (at its best) an aura of unreality and gentle disorientation. The downside of sampling and looping, however, is the audible evidence of studio tricks, where the electronic seams, creases, and scaffolding can work against the magic of the illusion. The Golden Morning Breaks has a more transparent and believable quality, and yet its wispy melancholy is still totally beguiling. Rather than approximating some sort of hallucinogenic dream-state, the music on Schott's second CD sounds like courtly chamber music of an ancient, contemplative and very wise civilization. And as interesting and celebrated as Schott's first CD might have been, the second represents a thoughtful movement into a deeper and more expansive musical world.

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