Colleen, drawing on traditional string instruments and modern looping techniques alike. Photo by Aude Sirvain, courtesy Colleen.

Colleen, drawing on traditional string instruments and modern looping techniques alike. Photo by Aude Sirvain, courtesy Colleen.

The essential quality of electronic music is, in some sense, collage: drawing from multi-track recording, it is defined by the ability to put things together in records or performances in new ways. The contents of that collage need not always be drum machine beats or synthesized alien sounds. And so, many artists draw from a different well.

Mentioning Georgina Brett last week prompted more reader recommendations. Two artists – one from France, one from Louisiana – exemplify the fusion of minimalist and folk traditions with electronic practice. And these two, each with a different spin on aesthetics and composition, also have 2013 records out or coming.

Hailing from Paris, Colleen – aka Cécile Schott – makes music that is strikingly simple, sometimes resembling ancient folk music, sometimes childlike play. But this is still electronic music; her debut reportedly came from an introduction to Acid (the sampling software, not the drug), and these live performances become real-time montage, timbres elevated to otherworldly ambiences. Vocals smear across one another in wet reverbs and layers. Pedals keep the focus on the instruments.

Colleen playing live in Brussels in 2007, flanked by an array of stompboxes doing the work - a modular on the floor.  Photo by Pascal Vermeulen, courtesy Colleen.

Colleen playing live in Brussels in 2007, flanked by an array of stompboxes doing the work – a modular on the floor. Photo by Pascal Vermeulen, courtesy Colleen.

Her influences are broader than a clumsy review could track; she charts her listening habits, traversing contemporary music and non-Western music, Moondog and Mozart.

In May, she released The Weighing Of The Heart on Second Language. “Humming Fields” gets a proper video, to images by Makino Takashi.

“Come bend your bow, shoot your arrow
Clouds will explode into rain

Birds are asleep down by the reeds
Rocked by the wind I see them breathe

In lonely fields I’ve been humming
Only the grass overhearing
The cat woke me up with his dreaming
In lonely fields I’ve been humming
Only the grass overhearing”

You can hear the whole record as a YouTube playlist:

More:
http://colleenplays.org/ (thanks, Paul Rose, for the tip!)

Julianna Barwick, courtesy the artist. Yes, in a Polaroid.

Julianna Barwick, courtesy the artist. Yes, in a Polaroid.

Julianna Barwick is an interesting point of comparison to this music. Weaving her work into rich clouds of timbre, chords and voice blur as if seen through a mist. These same looping and layering techniques are taken to their extreme point in the teaser for August’s upcoming Nepenthe.

“Forever” gets an accompanying video full of snowy weather, leaving you as eager-eyed as the young girls who have been drafted for the chorus. Barwick is forgoing Asthmatic Kitty for her own Dead Oceans label, based in Austin, Texas and Bloomington, Indiana (home of Indiana University). (That sounds like an axis of music nerddom; I can only imagine what will come out of drawing a connecting line from the music hipster capital of the planet to one of the world’s finest music schools. Barwick is now in Brooklyn. We may have a singularity on our hands here.)

(Germany, this is GEMA-blocked, I know. You should … know what to do. Ahem.)

There’s no video, but “One Half” official audio is also out in advance of the release.

The icy-cool textures aren’t just your imagination – this is in fact a collaboration with the lovely Alex Sommers of Sigur Rós, Jónsi, and Alex fame.

But this isn’t just about hipster cred. It isn’t imaginary folk music. Barwick comes out of a southern, rural Church choir tradition. Those churches, too, were defined partly by their ambiences, literally – the dynamics of many people singing together, forming new acoustic environments. Here, the electronics are a kind of stand-in for creating that dynamic; if Colleen or Georgina Brett made their solo voices into choirs, Barwick employs these masses of children together with electronics to imagine new ensembles.

For more of how Barwick works live, some videos:

Tank Music has a recent session with her, closely connected to the new record. BOSS and Roland get some serious love, natch.

And here she is performing live at the Glass House, mixing folk and modernism, crafting simplicity and machine surface in much the way the architecture does:

Night Sounds #1 Featuring Julianna Barwick from The Philip Johnson Glass House on Vimeo.

Night Sounds is a new Glass House performance series that parallels the Night (1947–2015) on-site sculpture-in-residence program. Guests joined musician Julianna Barwick, Night guest-curator Jordan Stein, and Glass House Director Henry Urbach for a live on-site performance and reception. A new artist whose work engages with the current sculpture will be selected to perform with each of the seven future iterations of the Night (1947–2015) exhibition, a series of works by contemporary artists that contend with the legacy of Alberto Giacometti’s absent sculpture Night and Johnson’s architectural opus.
Inaugural performance: December 12, 2012
Film by Derrick Belcham

“No!” you shout.

“No, one major Northeastern American mondernist architectural landmark with beautiful footage of Julianna Barwick singing is not enough for me! I want more!”

Fine.

Julianna Barwick | Vow | Live @ The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from A Story Told Well on Vimeo.

Julianna Barwick | Vow | Live @ The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
captured by Derrick Belcham (A Story Told Well)
The three-part series of live music that accompanies John Chamberlain: Choices, on view through May 13 at the Guggenheim Museum, Divine Ricochet takes its thematic cue from the poetic fusion, chaotic riffing, explosive color and sublime assemblage that characterized Chamberlain’s work.
The series title is borrowed from a 1991 work by the late American sculptor. A lover of music, Chamberlain pushed boundaries as he explored abstraction, rhythm, harmony, and dissonance, providing a vibrant context for contemporary musical experiments in the museum’s rotunda. Like Chamberlain’s work, the music of Grouper, Julianna Barwick, Cold Cave, and Zola Jesus exemplify the intense push and pull between power and delicacy, structure and abstraction.

I wish I could recall exactly how she put it, but when I had the chance to work with Meredith Monk in a choir she spoke about this notion of making a folk music that sounded like it had come from the future, or been rediscovered in a distant time. I absolutely get that feeling from this generation of artists, and the direction of a lot of music. It’s this future/past, scifi fairy tale – A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away…

Brooklyn’s Derrick Belcham / A Story Told Well directs the dreamy vid.

August 20 marks the release date.

http://www.juliannabarwick.com/

Until then, keep listening.

  • chaircrusher

    Julianna Barwick live is riveting. She played here with William Basinski as part of the Mission Creek Festival this spring. What really got to me about it was that her pieces are composed — if you listen to her recordings, you will recognize what you heard live. But this doesn’t mean she reproduces her music rote the way a mainstage rock act might. Given her performance method, no two performances are the same. There’s some serious deep focus to her method. A lot of looper performances can be rather wayward an aimless, but Julianna seems to balance highly focused intentionality with the freedom to soar.

    And she has a lovely voice to boot.

    Julianna in Iowa City April 2013

    http://youtu.be/dmbdfyylPpg

  • http://www.jhhl.net/ Henry Lowengard

    If you like this kind of music, you may like the to listen to the astounding Parallelograms from Linda Perhacs, recorded in 1970. Yes, 1970. http://www.timelesslindaperhacs.com

    You may also like to listen to my band, Mamalama, but we’re not electronic.

  • Todd Fisher

    Fantastic article….. and I have someone new to look into…. how beautiful!

  • Blob

    “The contents of that collage need not always be drum machine beats or synthesized alien sounds.” Very good point. Also, both these singers / musicians are really talented, thanks for sharing.

    • Blob

      Addendum – the murky and fascinating territory between folk / world music and electronic is indeed worth exploring. Hope more articles on the subject will surface in the near future!

  • PaulDavisTheFirst

    Barwick’s music is lovely. that said, for the over 40 crowd, i have the overwhelming urge to cry out “Enya for the under 40 crowd!” :) Yeah, OK, they don’t sound that alike, but … the over 40′s will know what I mean.

    • Brian Fay

      I totally see what you mean by “Enya for the under 40 crowd,” but it’s sort of funny because the tech Barwick uses seems simpler and more raw. Barwick pretty consistently uses nothing more than her voice, looping, and reverb, whereas Enya used a lot of synthesizers and studio trickery.

      Enya sounds a bit dated to my ears, and Barwick sounds current, even though the technology seems to have almost taken a step backwards.

  • http://wheatwilliams.com Wheat Williams

    In the photograph, Colleen is playing a 7-string bass viola da gamba. I’m surprised you didn’t mention that.