Colleen’s The Tunnel and the Clearing is a perfect summer breeze of an album | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Colleen’s The Tunnel and the Clearing is a perfect summer breeze of an album

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Under the name Colleen, French composer and multi-instrumentalist Cécile Schott has spent the past two decades traversing musical styles: She explored hypnagogic looped samples on her 2003 debut, Everyone Alive Wants Answers, dulcet folktronica on 2005’s The Golden Morning Breaks, and chamber-music ambience on 2007’s Les Ondes Silencieuses. Schott’s work is consistent in its arresting simplicity, but her pieces aren’t so much minimal as they are featherlight. Schott’s latest album, The Tunnel and the Clearing (Thrill Jockey), builds on the vocal pop of 2015’s Captain of None and the sparse electronics of 2017’s A Flame My Love, a Frequency. Though its songs glide along gently, it’s the most brazenly straightforward of all her records. On “Revelation,” when she sings “Reveal yourself to me,” it feels like an invitation to open your ears to the soft textures of the song’s diaphanous ambience and vocals. The album has its moody moments, most notably at the beginning of the title track, but Schott always brings it back to an amiable shuffling of layered synths that dissolve into celestial glistening. On “Hidden in the Current,” which embraces that astral atmosphere, her voice appears amid throbbing electronic pulses, as though she’s been ejected into outer space and is singing among the stars. The instrumentation on The Tunnel and The Clearing exudes the same sort of beautiful naivete found in the work of German synth maestro Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and the album’s pop tracks have a whimsy that recalls Stereolab’s most delicate avant-garde tunes or the breezy lounge-pop of Antena’s Camino del Sol—though Colleen’s music is more wonderfully uncomplicated than either of theirs. The Tunnel and the Clearing feels like sitting on a porch on a hot summer day as a gentle wind cools your skin: it’s easy, refreshing, and the perfect way to pass time.   v

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