Music Reviews
Everyone Alive Wants Answers

Colleen Everyone Alive Wants Answers

(Leaf) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

It's a rare and beautiful thing when you discover a label like Leaf; representing such unique imaginations as Manitoba, Susumu Yokota and Gorodisch, their visionary and lovingly assembled catalogue of releases is so consistently strong that you can pretty much buy anything they put out with confidence that it'll be well worth the investment. Not since the early days of Warp or Mo Wax has such a broad roster of talented yet hitherto unheard voices emerged from one label, and the debut album from 26-year-old Parisian Cecile Schott, aka Colleen, is further evidence (if any more was needed) that Leaf are currently peerless in extracting the precious from the swarming hive of electronica.

Aside from the vulnerable ambient chimings of Yokota's Grinning Cat, the obvious parallel to Everyone Alive Wants Answers is Mira Calix's equally enrapturing Skimskitta, alive as it is to the possibilities of creating electronic music with a delicate human element, utilising fragile guitar melodies, music boxes and unintelligible loops of children's voices (an element that is now so ubiquitous to electronica albums that statistics show that your child is 23% more likely to be abducted if a parka-wearing bleep merchant lives within a 10-mile radius of your home).

Impossible though it may be to talk of any new ambient/electronic release without acknowledging the long shadow cast by Boards of Canada, Colleen further consolidates what has become increasingly obvious: namely that women are simply doing this kind of thing a lot better than men on a regular basis. Solex, Andrea Parker, Leila, Mira Calix... there's no other genre in which the girls trounce the boys so often and so convincingly, and from the evidence on what is, astoundingly, her first full-length offering, Schott's talent is already in full flower.

There is a fairytale sense of wonderment on tracks like Ritournelle, Babies and I Was Deep in a Dream and I Didn't Know it (a title that fittingly sums up the entire listening experience). Long Live Mice in the Metro is an uneasy tiptoe through echoing chambers, exemplifying the delicate balance of both innocence and a vague yet imminent threat that occasionally floats under the surface throughout the album. Colleen can break your heart so gently it feels like a caress; tones and timbres transmit an enveloping warmth; glockenspiels and music boxes chime with glacial elegance. And then the final echoes of Nice and Simple dissipate, leaving you happily bewildered and in danger of bumping into the furniture should you attempt any sudden movements.

It's hard to ascertain exactly what Schott captures on Everyone Alive Wants Answers that makes listening to it such an engaging experience, but unlike many ambient practitioners her work never entirely sinks into the background, but neither does it overpower; rather, moments of exquisite tenderness gently entice and enfold. What Colleen has in common with the most captivating blues track or the most exhilarating DJ set, is the undeniable knowledge that something emotionally resonant and, for want of a better word, real, is being unfurled with each note. There is no artifice being employed here; instead, we find in Everyone Alive Wants Answers a serene and alluring symmetry that is, above all, concerned with emotion over the cold, mathematical approach to programming, and to mesmerising effect. File under soul music.