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Colleen – “Captain of None” Review

Possibly the most avant garde folk release of 2015

Colleen’s album “Captain of None” is exceptionally difficult to review because it’s an incredibly abstract piece of melodic repetition for 43 minutes. Some songs are more melodic and varied than others but each track is a riff that repeats. This will either draw you in or repulse you away.

For me, it draws me in – but in moderation. “Holding Horses” and the excellent “I’m Kin” open the album with perhaps the most accessible and closest songs to a normal structure. The latter in particular has a verse/chorus structure. The palette that Colleen uses is a collection of string plucks from stringed instruments, some percussion at times and a lot of frequency modulators. The main reason I am drawn in is that she is able to take what is a beautiful real world instrument and twist it over time into something that becomes quite mechanical and alien. Add to that her voice is echoed and disembodied (although soothing and tuneful) and you get something that feels genuinely unique.

The song writing follows a very similar path for most tracks though as “This Hammer Breaks” channels voice and drum into something tribal and to the core of music. Along with “I’m Kin”, they showcase the very best of the album and probably are the best songs to try before you buy. “Salina Stars” is a bass and synth track that is designed to evoke space travel and celestial metallic shimmers. “Lighthouse”uses the guitar and ukulele to create mini loops on repeat as Colleen sings like a siren calling out “my lights on” for the final few minutes.

“Soul Alphabet” however has some groove to it as all the plucking of the instruments evokes an old 60’s Spanish song at times. It’s really intricate and constantly changing and that’s what makes Colleen’s intriguing when it hits the mark – as it does here. “Eclipse” is a waltzing eerie track before the titular “Captain of None” returns full circle back to mechanical loops and smooth whispy vocals.

Each time I listen to the album, I gain more appreciation for it. Initially I found it alluring limited but then I appreciate the build up and swift movements around subtle instrument changes. It is however, a very acquired taste so this review is more about raising awareness about an intriguing piece of art than telling you it will change your life. If you like to try avant garde – give this a whirl!

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