COLLEEN 20TH ANNIVERSARY: A FLAME MY LOVE, A FREQUENCY, 2017.
December 30, 2022 § Leave a comment
From Captain of None onwards, my music has been shaped more and more strongly by the events happening to me as a person. There is always a strong aesthetic and technical core to each new album I make, but Captain of None / A Flame my Love, A Frequency / The Tunnel and the Clearing is definitely – in retrospect – a kind of autobiographical cathartic trilogy.
My 6th album A Flame was born under the shadow of fear of death in the dark month of November 2015. My mum was recovering from a cancer operation and we didn’t know if she was going to pull through (she did). My parents live about 100 kms away from Paris and visiting them entails travelling through Paris to catch a local train. I happened to have to repair my treble viola da gamba bow and had been instructed to leave it at a luthier in Paris. It was 13th November, the first and only day and night of the year that I was going to spend in Paris, staying with close friends. It was such a balmy, sunny day. On that evening, the terrorist attack of the Bataclan and terrace shootings happened. Some of the terraces where people where shot were those very same terraces I had walked past a couple of hours earlier: the luthier was right in that neighbourhood. I’ll never forget listening to sirens all night long and the next morning I took my train back to San Sebastián, petrified.
Our flat remained silent for a couple of weeks, then I shook myself out of my lethargy and headed back to the studio: I had a new album in the works and had been a bit nervous about my decision to do a truly electronic album for the first time of my life. Suddenly this important artistic decision appeared for just what it was, nothing more, dwarfed by the horrors that had just happened. I needed both an outlet for *and* an antidote to the twin shadow of my mum’s precarious health and my constant ruminations on death. Once again, music did not fail me.
A FLAME: PLUNGING INTO ELECTRONICS FOR THE FIRST TIME.
I never anticipated I would switch to full-on electronics, but on the Captain of None 2015 US tour, I visited King Britt ‘s studio in Philadelphia and two units grabbed my attention: Moog’s MF-105M MIDIMuRF Multiple Resonant Filter, and a tiny synth, The Critter and Guitari ‘s Pocket Piano. I had been attracted by the idea of forming simple organic-sounding rhythms, so on my return I bought both to give a go at this approach while still playing my treble viol. However, the two sounds didn’t gel, and even worse: I felt I was “going through the motions” on the viol. In contrast, I felt super excited by this ultra minimal electronic setup, so I decided to follow my gut instinct.
I won’t lie: I was a bit worried about losing my specificity as a musician, as there are so many purely electronic musicians, but just as I had realized singing was not going to turn me into a “singer-songwriter”, I ended up trusting I could still make “Colleen music” even through pure electronics.
There is less to write about this album engineering-wise, because the set up was so incredibly minimal: the Critter and Guitari Pocket Piano and Septavox, MF-104M Analog Delay, MF-105M MIDIMuRF, a customized TC Hall of Fame Mini Reverb, two plugins (The Interruptor’s Bionic Delay and Overloud Spring Age reverb), vocals on the Beyerdynamic MC834, with everything bussed through the Scarlett soundcard.
I did make the mistake of monitoring with my Beyerdynamic headphones too often, which led me to perceive the music as having a wider stereo image than it really had (and this even though I panned the MuRF and MF-104M’s respective outputs pretty hard). My mastering engineer Antony Ryan /RedRedPaw suggested the Xfer Records Dimension Expander plugin, which helped a lot, even though I still find the album a bit “muffled” in parts.
A dualistic thread holds the album together: light vs dark, rhythmical vs static, pessimistic vs hopeful, and I am really proud of how the lyrics ended up expressing what I felt, given the sensitive subject matter.
All photos are by Isabel Dublang: first one was for press (2017), the others for an in-depth interview for Resident Advisor in which I was visited at my studio and asked in detail about my work process.
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