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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Music box symphonies

Posted By on 09.21.06 at 05:06 PM

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Colleen et les Boîtes à Musique (Leaf), the forthcoming EP by French musician Colleen (aka Cecele Shot) opens with the sound of a music box being wound up, which is appropriate. With the exception of one piece, the entire 39-minute EP--commissioned by French national radio’s Atelier de Création Radiophonique (Radiophonic Workshop Of Creation)--was created exclusively by using a variety of music boxes. Although one can hear snippets of the original melodies loaded into the boxes—“Charles’s Birthday Card” includes a chunk of “Rockabye Baby”—most of the work creates new sounds and patterns. Shot doesn’t merely record little bits of the music boxes; she samples them and manipulates them electronically—altering pitch and speed, clouding up certain bits with digital delay—as well as striking the metallic tines with a comb and rubbing them with her fingers.

Sometimes it sounds like she’s playing a harp, while at other moments it recalls a kalimba. Unsurprisingly, it’s got a delicate, miniaturized sound that’s both meditative and spooky—some of this stuff would work well in a horror movie. On last year’s lovely The Golden Morning Breaks—I’ll withhold commentary on the album art, which has drawings of unicorns--Shot achieves similar effects using a wider arsenal of instruments, including acoustic guitar, cello, zither, melodica, glockenspiel, and more music boxes. She usually sticks to just one instrument on each piece, playing it in an unconventional fashion or sampling snippets and radically reconfiguring them. Regardless, the music remains starkly intimate and patient. In an article published earlier this year in Arthur, Shot said she imagined her ideal fans listening to her music “in bed under a blanket. Hopefully they wouldn’t fall asleep before the end of the record.”

Colleen makes her Chicago debut Friday night at the Empty Bottle as part of the Wire magazine’s Adventures of Modern Music Festival.

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