The Golden Morning Breaks
ike a precious secret, Colleen quietly released her first collection of songs, Everyone Alive Wants Answers, a few years ago which—strangely, considering the album’s title—only raised more questions. Appearing like a tangled web of warm, blemished sound and looped melodic fragments, Everyone Alive… illustrated Colleen’s keen ear for plucking repetitive samples from her record collection to create a flowing, harmonious network of strummed notes and gentle chords. The music was so naturally assembled and produced that it seemingly captured the notes out of the air itself.
Her sophomore effort, The Golden Morning Breaks, marks a sharp departure in song construction as Cecile Schott—the woman behind the Colleen moniker—now plays every note that drifts over her most recent album. Despite the disparate songwriting approach, The Golden Morning Breaks does—in tone and atmosphere—sound remarkably like its predecessor, albeit a looser, more laggard counterpart.
The new framework in which Colleen operates now approximates a Cocorosie backing track or a B-side from Vespertine stripped of Bjork’s vocals. Essentially, these are melancholic folk songs that you could easily label under pop—although in a twisted, minimal form—if it weren’t for the peculiar vocal-less quality. Unlike the vast amount of instrumental music that simply abolishes the notion of a human voice whatsoever, these songs are very easy to imagine with hushed vocals scattered over its edges. That is not to say that The Golden Morning Breaks is necessarily incomplete or deficient in any way, it simply gives the music more space to breathe and allows the listener to fill the gaps with his or her own imagination.
If anything, this makes the album even more human: The Golden Morning Breaks seems to wrap around you with its tender charm and gentle appearance. The subtle, refined songwriting forces Colleen to choose her instruments—and the accompanying notes—very carefully. Her songs are so skeletal, with gossamer melodies clinging tightly to the implied rhythmic patterns that they appear to be naked, leaving her emotions bare.
Throughout its ten tracks, The Golden Morning Breaks is always modest and unassuming, as Colleen’s songs serve as delicate portrayals of serenity and contentment. In particular, “The Heart Harmonicon” with its fragile bells that sound almost too shy to completely ring and resonate and the drowsy acoustic guitars of “Summer Water” typify this approach. But it’s the sprawling, eleven-minute closer, “Everything Lay Still,” that truly embodies the album’s beating heart as it captures Golden Morning’s touchstones—lulling organs, wispy acoustics, and flickering chimes—and rekindles them into Colleen’s longest track yet.
Whereas her debut was an exercise of building and retracting broken melodies, The Golden Morning Breaks strips those very melodies to their core to reveal a collection of songs that take on the qualities of a soft lullaby. Augmented by her somber songwriting and keen ear for minimalism, Colleen achieves what many aspire to, but ultimately fail at: creating an album that seeps into your subconscious with subtlety, but still leaves a lasting imprint.
Reviewed by: Ryan Potts
Reviewed on: 2005-06-21