Flashback Week En Français: Bertrand Belin, Colleen

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Bertrand Belin - Parcs
Release Date - May 27, 2013
Record Label - Cinq7 / Wagram

Bertrand Belin's 2011 Hypernuit seemed to resurrect the vocals of Serge Gainsbourg with a little help from a contemporary indie a la The National. On Parcs, Belin's 2013 followup and third proper LP, he seems to have crooned his way into a totally unique context. Which isn't to say that you're not going to feel a little of the Gainsbourg, and that the slide guitar won't make you feel a little bit at home. Indeed, part of the beauty of Belin's album is its ability to work internationally due, mostly, to his impeccable songwriting and pristine production.

What's more, these songs manage to plumb various distances at the same time. "Ruine" has movements in it. "Ca va ça va ça va ça va," my personal favorite on the record, sounds like an outtake from "So Long Marianne"-era Leonard Cohen and the gentle piano line seems as refreshing as it is surprising. Perhaps its the attention to detail and emphasis on the craft of a track that makes this album so refreshing as everyone seems to be going for a "sound" Belin is doing what he does best, writing, composing, and creating immaculate arrangements of his songs.

Colleen - The Weighing of the Heart
Release Date - May 13, 2013
Record Label - Second Language

Cécile Schott, AKA Colleen, first took notice in the states with her album The Golden Morning Breaks in 2005. Well, this isn't entirely accurate. For one, The Golden Morning Breaks was actually her second release but the one that made some indie waves over here in the states because it got an 8.0 from P-fork.  She followed up the record in 2007 with Les Ondes Silencieuses, which tread in a similar vein as The Golden Morning Breaks as an ambient baroque composition that seemed to recreate (albeit at John Cage-esque tempos) historical music with contemporary instruments. Now, after a six year silence (you can read about that here), Cécile has returned with a new album on a new label and has launched a new foray into music. 

The Weighing of the Heart has very little to do with her previous efforts. Perhaps the first thing you'll notice is singing, something which never made its appearance on any of Colleen's previous records. But, true to form, the vocalizations on the album seem to be one more instrument that Colleen is playing with in her composition. Rarely handling melody, the singing languidly tempers repetitive, ambient instrumentation that drives tracks like "Push the Boat Onto the Sand" forward. The second new addition to Colleen's impressive repertoire is the use of percussion in the album. While notes on The Golden Morning Breaks and Les Ondes Silencieuses floated away from one another (which was one of the beauty of those albums, their effervescence) , here Colleen grounds her plucking as much for tone as for rhythm. Perhaps this is at its greatest in "Gemoetria del Universo," a track which seems to take its inspiration from Colleen's new home in Spain. As the track spins along, Colleen's extraordinary musicianship is readily apparent as well as a renewed vitality and vigor that pushes the music into whole new geometries.


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