Colleen is the alter ego of Parisienne Cécile Schott, doyenne of atmospheric ambience. Third album Les Ondes Silencieuses has largely abandoned the loops and samples of her earlier work in favour of organic instruments played in real time - many of them unfamiliar or archaic, like the viola da gamba (viol), a seven-stringed ancestor of the cello and the bass guitar, and the harpsichord-like spinet.
Scott's strength has always been in the evocation of atmosphere rather than in musical dynamism, and these pieces are tone-poems which evolve slowly through various moods. Some are more successful than others - the repetitive mathematical figures of Le Labyrinth are screamingly claustrophic (though perhaps that's the intention) and the six minutes of string-scraping on Les Ondes Silencieuses begins by evoking the secrets of the deep but swiftly descends into tedium.
The outstanding track here is the lovely Blue Sands, where Schott wrings a range of wildly different sounds from her viol using different playing techniques - bowing, finger picking and percussion mallets. The use of breathy clarinet notes on Sun Against My Eyes calls up the ennui of a summer's day and the lacy textures of Sea Of Tranquility evoke light reflected on water or the sun's rays scattered through the leaves of a tree in July.
Much of the music here is deeply simplistic, there's no denying its effectiveness. Whether it resembles music played by aliens for a courtly masque staged on another planet or a talented child let loose into a music shop is perhaps a moot point, but its power grows with repeated listenings.
by Clare O'Brien, Subba-Cultcha.com
This wafts along pleasantly enough, I suppose. But really it consists of rather self-indulgent, improvisatory noodlings on a variety of renaissance and early Baroque instruments. Cecile can obviously play, but this manages to be neither an interesting ambient album played on acoustic instruments (compare Robert Rich's "Temple of the Invisible") or a worthwhile fusion of styles. I have an unfortunate image of a rather drippy woman improvising soulfully on the gamba and noodling on the spinet. I cannot deny I'm something of a musical snob, but I'm usually open to something fresh and interesting. This is neither.
Oh, and the viol, or viola da gamba, isn't an ancestor of the 'cello or the electric bass. It's a family of instruments which are close cousins of the violin family, from treble to great bass, all of which have five to seven strings, tied on gut frets and are played upright between the knees with a bow. Cecile plays the bass viol, which is at the same pitch as the cello, rather nicely.