Colleen – The weighing of the heart (Second Language)

The first album in 6 years from Cécile Schott aka Colleen brings an intriguing earthy spiritualism and a meditational atmosphere built around a core of layered hushed vocals, circling classical guitar and viola de gamba motifs. The sense of meditational music is only added to by the use of toy gamelan, bells and chimes.

The album unfolds as a series of vignettes or episodes based around pastoral settings – ‘Push the boat onto the sand’, ‘The moon like a bell’, ‘Humming fields’. I love the way ‘Push the boat...’ develops a lovely flowering arrangement, gathering loops of vocals and plucked strings before stripping back again. The brilliant combination of woodwind, drum and shakers on the instrumental ‘Going forth by day’. On ‘Breaking up the earth’, the pairing of tuned drums and high-toned plucked strings, with under the breath humming making for quite a shamanic display. And the burst of church organ two-thirds way through ‘Moonlit sky’ after an opening of oboe and plucked strings, feeling like emerging from under a bower into the blinding sun.

It’s interesting to hear about Schott’s own motivations with the record.

After periods of self-doubt and much experimentation, she experienced two successive breakthroughs in 2012. “Prompted by my love of Moondog’s records, I decided to learn how to play percussion instruments, focusing on the frame drum. All of a sudden, it felt like this huge gate opened up before me. I feel that, now, my music is just as much about rhythm as it is about melody.” The second breakthrough happened in summer 2012, when she decided to tune her treble viola da gamba like a guitar, “obtaining a sound that really felt non-European, which was part of the musical equation I was looking for.”

It’s a heartening backstory from what is obviously a deeply questing personality. The self-enforced exile from performing and recording also tends to prove the woman’s bona fides, if there was ever any doubt, her commitment to music as a current of the world around us as opposed to some other form of currency.

The unique arrangements and lyrical minutiae of the album create a kind of domestic exotica which will sound downright strange to many (conventional) European ears. It’s a music for a quiet room in the same way that Julianna Barwick’s is, although without the sacred connotations of that artist (apart from the title track which draws on the Egyptian Book of the Dead). It’s certainly not for everyone but given time its beauty and power reveals itself, its story of human experience in the shadow of elemental powers, which fittingly sustains a sturdy presence despite its delicate raw materials.

Fractured Air & Triskel presents:
Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer
Saturday 2 November 2013 / 7:30pm / €15/€13

More details on this link -

Early bird tickets are priced at €13 and are onsale Wednesday 19 June. Tickets are available from Triskel Arts Centre, Tobin St, Cork. Order tickets by Telephone: 021 4272 022 and online at:


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