The Golden Morning Breaks
The Leaf LabelI'll Read You A Story The Happy Sea
There are two methods for making a successful follow up to an acclaimed debut album. Either you delve deeper into whatever sound and style you’re exploring, building on minute details with the goal of creating an ever more perfect representation of your sound. Or, you reinvent yourself – rebel against habit, toss out the tried and true methods and approaches to song composing, and begin completely fresh and anew.
Cécile Schott, whose 2003 release Everyone Alive Wants Answers as Colleen was as startling a debut as one could desire, approaches her second release one better than choosing one of these distinct paths: she walks both.
EAWA was a hypnotizing mix of sampled recordings and found sounds, mining lullabies from the chaos of recordings never meant to be heard together. The Golden Morning Breaks is an equally stunning achievement of meditative beauty – with nary a beat, the album’s tracks embrace abandon and prepare for the warm jets, swathing the listener in a sea of comfort through its simultaneous familiarity and distinctness. However, unlike her first record, Schott didn’t use samples; the entire record is recorded live with acoustic instruments. She picked up some familiar instruments (an earlier life in noise rock and pop bands was called back up to memory) and learned some others for the first time. What results is a group of recordings skilled and unpretentious, exploring their own distinct realms of ambience with equal parts intelligence and innocence.
The evolution came naturally for Schott. Stuck with the realization that she wouldn’t be able to replicate the songs off EAWA in a live setting, she set about preparing a set with instruments. The goal was to evoke the impressions of the record, even if the actual songs themselves would differ. Spending so much time playing naturally led Schott towards composing. "It was such a thrill for me both to play live for people and to go back to playing instruments again, most of them new to me," she says, "The two became linked in my head: the pleasure of playing live and the pleasure of learning instruments and, of course, making new pieces with them."
Another influence was her growing record collection. Having started with a strong knowledge of current rock and electronic music, Schott began to pick up on late 16th century lute songs by John Dowland (from whom the album takes its name), 17th century compositions for viola da gamba (an ancestor to the cello), 20th century composers, kora techniques of West Africa, and Indonesian folk and gamelan. The thought of using these recordings for sampling felt sacrilegious. "They reached such a point of perfection that they can’t be used as sampling fodder. There’s no point in copying them because it would never be as good as the original," she says. What’s more, Schott’s skills don’t lay in replication as much as elucidating mood. That ability to channel emotion is where her own perfection lies.
Composing the songs required a new approach and even Schott could never have guessed what the final album would sound like. "The tracks which made it to the album stage were the ones that really piqued my curiosity because they veered away from what I had wanted originally, and managed to surprise me," she says. Her intention was to find distinctive sound qualities in both everyday instruments, like guitars, and those rarely used, like her 19th century glass harmonicon, a delicate sounding glass glockenspiel. By composing through a process of building and shedding, Schott’s recording process took time, but resulted in a collection of songs most accurately representing her goals, however abstract at their genesis.
The Golden Morning Breaks is a series of fully realized explorations. It contains recordings rife with ideas and emotion, songs that don’t have traditional beginnings and ends. Rather, what makes the album so special is Schott’s intuitive ability to create beauty through simplicity. By avoiding the strict formal approach to writing and recording, Colleen keys her music into something much more primal – the magical realism in the common every day.