Heavenly harmonies always attract adoration. Beauty may be entirely subjective (in life, as in music), but it’s easy to become instantly swayed by the pure beauty in harmony. Attraction can mean different things to different people, but the emotional outcomes of appreciation and exhilaration are always present. The female voice is one of the most natural ways to conjure up beauty, a pure, primary element that has been left untouched and unfiltered. No effects are necessarily needed, and nothing, it seems, is as adept at recreating Heaven on Earth as a feathered female vocal. Parisienne Colleen (Cecile Schott) invites you to cast off alongside her, and who could resist the calling.
Her angelic vocals are beauty personified, and her voice is used in such a way that it searches deeply the amazing possibility and potential in fluid, layered harmonies; hers is a singing voice soaked with a balmy coating of electronic reverb, somehow lost and found at the same time, like the swirling vocal rush of a Julianna Barwick, a Julia Holter or, more recently, a White Blush record.
It’s amazing to think that The Weighing of the Heart is the first time Colleen has sung on one of her records. Not only that, but the intention is to push her voice out right away, like that boat onto the sand. In an instant, her vocal presence is imbued wholeheartedly into the music, giving birth to an airy, natural sound.
Typically, when vocals are featured in such a way, the focus falls largely on the atmospheric, an ambient soundscape that continuously develops and floats on the wings of a vocal. Colleen mixes it up by introducing more than a couple of instruments and diluting the synthesizers, until an earthy sound remains; not one that relies upon electronics.
Cast off with ‘Push The Boat Onto The Sand’. Colleen really does push her vocals outwards, her voice dancing as lightly and as radiantly as those footsteps touching the sand. A guitar solo can be heard rising over a smoke-cloudy atmosphere, sailing away over smooth waters; the only realisation is a kind knowing that everything will be fine. Everything will be alright. Soft footsteps tread lightly along the sand, walking under a thin jet of intense light, whipping up a light, dusty breeze of peace as you walk on by.
‘Humming Fields’ draws together dark skies, clouded with rain despite the lighter use of instrumentation, providing the earth and the music with nutrition and hydration for the thirst. At this point, the music is covered in soft grains of soil. Her songs shine with hope; for once, the folk-tinted mood is free of melancholia, and it never pretends to be something it isn’t.
Through tangled vines, her lyrics reflect a short-styled form of poetry; deep, satisfying and leaving a cloud of deep meaning in their wake. Trembling along the string, the plucked notes resound at speed, and open up like promising ripples over a shallow river. As Colleen sings, ‘I love you just the way you are’, her voice could be one of a thousand echoes, creating their own kind of reverb. You can imagine a thousand listeners repeating the lyric of love as a chant, because this is the response you feel when listening to her music.
A couple of songs cross over into the experimental – the layering of vocals, repetitious in their plea to ‘Break Away’. And from this point on, it becomes increasingly apparent that rhythm, and not necessarily harmony, has taken the centre of attraction. Yet, the rhythmic influence can also be found in her harmonies, in her vocal expression and her phrasing, but it’s clearer seen through the entangled vines draped in natural percussion. Adding her sweet harmonies to the rhythmically centred songs makes The Weighing of the Heart ever stronger. Nearer the end, the once-celestial harmonies point the way to rhythm, subsiding into the air as if they were mist-formed (and they very well could be). Despite the prevalence of rhythm, her music never becomes a slave to a rigid, percussive structure.
If you were to delve deeper, it could be said that every note that has ever lived carries the embers of its own rhythm, like a heartbeat. Colleen’s music is attracted to the unification between harmony and rhythm, in a powdered splash of gentle reverb, bathed under a blood red moon.
This music is darkly romantic, as if the embers of rhythm were candles that still swoosh in a cool draught. Beauty is subjective, but I have a feeling you may just fall in love.