BETWEEN BEAUTY, BRANCUSI and BREAKUP

We talked to the musician Colleen about her new album “ The Tunnel and the Clearing“ and how it reflects both her own and the listener’s psyche.

Barcelona-based French musician Cécile Schott’s – alias Colleen – new album “The Tunnel and the Clearing” spirals with intensity between melancholia and awakening. Her timeless yet avantgarde electronic tracks feel like they are coming from another sphere, one  that is more real than reality itself.
Colleen re-composed chaos without confusion, as if emotions are put into a new order. Minimalistic vocals deepen the atmosphere without overshadowing any musical nuances. Clearity yet dreaminess – Colleen’s unique balance makes her new album magnetic: emotionally, musically, aesthetically.
With her talent she is creating not only songs but an atmosphere, musician might be to low of a title, she is rather a true sound sculptor.
It’s perfect fit that she herself is an admirer of Brancusi’s simple yet flow-full statues – as she reveals in her first given interview about her new album and therefore also about art – and feelings.

Interview: Laura Dunkelmann

How did you feel during the creation process? And how do your feelings show in the music?

My longterm relationship ended. I had been with this person for 16 years. And it was a breakup almost overnight which I didn’t expect. I just had to face this personal upheaval in my life. I barely knew people in Barcelona as well, because we had moved just a year before. I still find myself in this really weird situation in a new beautiful city. So I lost my relationship and had almost no friends here. That was the moment when I started work on what became the album. I literally started the day after the breakup. And I erased, I erased everything I did before. I did start before, but I threw it all away. It became just such a strange period of my life, that somehow became this new project in and of itself, you know, very different to what I had in mind before. It was an exhausting process but really helpful at the time, and there were moments when I actually cried when I felt that a piece of music was reflecting very closely the most intense emotions I was trying to express, such as anger or extreme disappointment. This album is the closest I’ve come to making an autobiographical piece of art.

I also broke up during lockdown and when I was quarantined. Shortly after, your first single from the new album was released and I felt very touched by it, almost understood. Music can be such a huge support – almost therapeutic. Did you feel a release during the creation of “Gazing At Taurus”?

Music can be therapeuthic, indeed! The album I released in 2017, was also very autobiographical. That album was linked to like another challenging period, my mom was very ill. And I was in Paris just for one night, and it was the one night of the terrorist attacks. So that had a really big effect on me. So for that album, as well, making the music was a way of processing the emotions. The darker part of the music expresses the darker feelings, but the moments that are more joyful or energetic are kind of an antidote to these feelings. So it works both ways. For the new album, I think I expressed emotions that I hadn’t expressed before in my music because I wasn’t really feeling them. So, for instance, with the breakup, when you’re not at the origin of the breakup, there’s a lot of anger and disappointment and the will to change things. So it kind of builds up into a rage. Before that happened to me, I didn’t really express that in my music. So I think this album, for me, is a breakthrough as well, in terms of music, but also in what it expresses. It really goes into new emotional territories, as well as a new musical territory.

This is a very courageous move, you make your emotions public therefore. Are you afraid to re-live those feelings when you perform or is it more a cathartic step?

I’ll see how I feel. I think when you perform live, there’s adrenalin released and joy that comes from sharing. I think it’s probably going to erase the more emotional aspect or just put it in balance with something that has nothing to do with energy it was created in. Heartbreak is something we all have in common. And dying one day. We’ve all had heartbreak. I’m not scared of putting it out there. The way I write my lyrics is also very minimal. So it is not a stereotype “breakup album” with lines like “Oh, yeah, you piece of shit!” (laughs). That’s, that’s not the way I write anyway.

Your music feels very atmospheric, scenic to me. And the perception of it might change due to the state the listener is in as well – and what kind of personal story or emotions they bring in. Do you try to create a certain atmosphere when you produce and write your music? What surrounds you in your creative process?

Now I have this really, really tiny studio, which only features what I need for the music, it helps me to concentrate. I tend to lose my concentration pretty easily. So I really need to make an effort to, for instance, not open emails, resist the temptation to go into the kitchen and make a cake or whatever. I try to keep things very minimal. The challenge is just to get down to work – you’re a writer, so you might know what I mean. I’m very curious. So you can spend a lot of time just researching one thing … I have two cats, one I used to let come into the studio with me. He’s a co-author of the album.

What made you a musician?

I was always attracted to music, even though my parents were not connected to music at all. In the 80s, there was just radio playing, not necessarily even good music. It wasn’t until I was 16 when I picked up the guitar. I was a big Beatles fan. So I come from pop music. Quite quickly, I just wanted to make my own music. All I do now is an evolution of that. I am very curious about not just all types of music, but all kind of arts in general. I’m feeling fed from so many different disciplines. Hopefully, it’s a process that will go on forever. Sometimes I don’t feel so inspired to make music, and I am trying to accept it. I think it’s very rare always being on a plateau of creation. But I when this loss of creativity happens to me, I feel like a part of me is missing. And when I go back into musician mode, it’s like: Oh, yeah, this is what I’m meant to do. Somehow, I don’t feel like being an artist is a selfish profession. I think that if you’re lucky to have an audience that you connect with, you can contribute to the wellbeing of people. From a psychological point of view music is important.
It’s actually like therapy for me listening to other music. I really get comfort from that.

Video by Daniel Barreto

Let’s say beautifying the world a bit or giving it another layer is already a bcontribution. Because everybody needs something out of the ordinary. And even if there’s only one person being a bit happier or thinking a bit deeper, that’s already a huge contribution, in my opinion. So that’s why art is important. You also mentioned you are inspired by other forms of art. What touches you?

I like the concept of Bauhaus and their female designers, I really like the intersection of colour, geometry, textile. I can relate it to music-making, because ultimately, it’s about construction, and I think music making is construction. Instead of colours and shapes, you have melody, harmony, timbers of the instrument. Like you create too! You just start with nothing, and then you end up with a finished product. So I think that’s a common point in all forms of arts and crafts. I also studied ceramics for two years, both hand modelling, and wheel turning, and also stone carving. And actually, the stone carving was very influential to me at that moment, because I had lost my inspiration. Among my favorits is Barbara Hepworth and I really love and Brancusi.

He is one of favourite artists as well.

I’m drawn to his minimal, lyrical approach to shape. It alignes with my vision.
My music is minimal but full of emotions.

Where do you find beauty?

Rath than finding beauty in a purely aesthetic sense, I tend to find beauty in certain moments and places, and certain living beings. It can be as simple as walking in Barcelona and all of a sudden noticing a building I already know from a different angle, or just noticing how amazing the color contrast is between the blue sky and a painted façade. Or seeing the first Alpine swifts that arrived two weeks ago. Or watching the sky at night with the backdrop of the Roman wall and medieval buildings of my neighbourhood from my window. And increasingly, with Covid lasting for so long, just finding beauty in being in the same room with a friend, or relaxing in my sofa or a lounge chair with my two cats huddled close to me.

How would like to be your new music listened to?

Loudly, whether on headphones or loudspeakers. Anywhere, although it works particularly well if you’re walking fast outside.

 

 

(Note: COLLEEN announced her last live performance, as she will step away from event, will be in London on July 8th).

[ARTIST ]
COLLEEN
[INTERVIEW]
LAURA DUNKELMANN
[PHOTO]
Luis Torroja
Mai 21, 2021

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