It isn’t so much that Cécile Schott is out of sync with what first carried her recordings to future adoring fans. Recording under the moniker Colleen, Schott delivered a breath of fresh air to listeners by incorporating a bit of humanity in her sample-based music. But attempting to work within the same aural palette in 2015 as she did in 2003 is understandably difficult.
The four albums issued between 2003 and 2007 set expectations reasonably high. Schott moved from total reliance on cutting up audio to making use of a coterie of instruments—everything from viola de gamba to cello—to playing with gamelan’s ringing percussion. She then took a took a six-year break, returning with The Weighing of the Heart in 2013. Her latest Thrill Jockey release, Captain of None, is an elegant refinement of Colleen’s re-emergence.
Now Schott is pushing further into pop territory but without sacrificing the handful of instruments she’s become associated with or the delicate nature of her compositions. Despite all of that, there is clearly a broader collection of instrumentation at work, as well as new sonic possibilities rattling around on the new Colleen album. Here she makes organic progressions, her thoughtful whisper joined by melodica and a variety of rhythmic devices.
But by the time Captain reaches “Eclipse”—the album’s penultimate track—Colleen’s seemingly run out of variations on her reverb-soaked arrangements. The song’s persistence, though, matches its refrain of “There is a sun,” all calmly ecstatic and assured.
To casual listeners or the uninitiated, Schott’s music won’t sound dramatically different than it did about a decade ago. But to anyone paying attention there’s a sea change afoot. And it may have only just started.