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As Colleen, Cécile Schott creates dreamily experimental music that reflects an enduring serenity and wonder -- and her flair for reinvention. The producer/multi-instrumentalist's early releases, such as 2003's Everyone Alive Wants Answers, focused on her skill at arranging samples and loops into transcendent collages; when she added more acoustic instrumentation on 2005's The Golden Morning Breaks and incorporated vocals on 2013's The Weighing of the Heart, it only heightened her music's intimacy and warmth. On later works like 2017's A Flame, My Love, A Frequency and 2023's instrumental double album Le jour et la nuit du réel, analog electronics helped convey the universal truths of difficult times in her profound and deeply beautiful music. Born and raised in Montargis, France, Schott started playing guitar in high school and later performed in a noise-pop group. After studying English at the University of Burgundy and spending some time in England, she moved to Paris in 1999. A former English teacher, she began making music in 2001, when a friend gave her a disc of free music production software. As she pieced together found sounds and samples from her own music collection as well as that of Paris Mediatheques' library, Colleen was born. Schott's debut album, Everyone Alive Wants Answers, arrived in June 2003 on The Leaf Label. For her concerts, she didn't want to rely on a strictly electronic approach, so she augmented her loops with effects and live instrumentation. These elements also appeared on her second album, May 2005's The Golden Morning Breaks, which included guitars, old pianos, mallets, and even toy instruments. The following January, Colleen released Mort aux Vaches (Death to Cows), a volume of Staalplaat's limited-edition live performance series, as well as the October EP Colleen et les Boîtes à Musique (Colleen and the Music Boxes), a set featuring music boxes and commissioned by France's Radiophonic Workshop. Colleen's music evolved again with 2007's Les Ondes Silencieuses (The Silent Waves), which boasted less structured compositions as well as more eclectic instrumentation such as the spinet and the viola de gamba, an instrument that had intrigued Schott since she first heard it as a teen. That year, she also scored the dance production Série by choreographer Perrine Valli. Schott returned in May 2013 with The Weighing of the Heart, the first Colleen album to feature her vocals. She explored this direction further and also incorporated elements of dub and other Jamaican music styles on her April 2015 Thrill Jockey debut, Captain of None. For October 2017's A Flame My Love, A Frequency, Colleen shifted to synths including the Critter and Guitari Pocket Piano and Septavox and drew upon her feelings about the 2015 Paris terror attacks for the album's impressionistic, highly emotional songs. Schott began work on her next album in 2018, but had to put it aside due to fatigue from a previously undiagnosed illness. As she underwent treatment, she weathered more changes -- a move to Barcelona, the end of her relationship -- that informed the music she made. Composed on analog electronic instruments such as the Elka Drummer One and the Moog Grandmother synth, the meditative The Tunnel and the Clearing arrived in May 2021. While developing her eighth album, her compositions metamorphosed from vocal-based pieces into synth-based instrumentals that expressed the constantly shifting perception of reality. Created solely with the Moog Grandmother and a pair of delay pedals, September 2023's double album Le jour et la nuit du réel expressed daytime and nighttime introspection with its contemplative suites.
© Heather Phares /TiVo


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