Boomkat Product Review:
Cécile Schott's first double album is a magical and sprawling collection of all-electronic movements made using a single synth and a collection of delay pedals. Her first all-instrumental album since 2007's 'Les ondes silencieuses', it's an emotionally-charged and deeply human set of experiments that reminds us of Raymond Scott, Delia Derbyshire and more recently, Lau Nau.
It's an incredible achievement to keep releasing new music without repeating yourself, but Schott's been challenging herself ever since she followed her sample-based debut 'Everyone Alive Wants Answers' with the lush, instrument-led 'The Golden Morning Breaks' in 2005. Her last run of albums found her exploring songwriting, meeting her fallible vocals with dub and electro-samba rhythms on 2021's excellent 'The Tunnel and the Clearing'.
For 'Le jour et la nuit du réel' ('The day and the night of reality'), Schott initially wrote the album with vocals, but as the songs evolved into suites, she realized that the synthesizer was all she needed to express herself. Using a Moog Grandmother monosynth alongside a Roland Space Echo and a handful of delay pedals, she set about working on an investigation of perceptions of reality that's split into two sides: day and night. "To me, the capacity of synthesis to alter - subtly or radically - the physical embodiment in sound of the same series of notes is akin to how, when given new information about a person or a situation, we can reevaluate our initial perception of what we thought was the "reality" of that person or situation, sometimes drastically so," she explains.
Schott calls the process here a "human-machine hybrid style", using non-quantized sequencing and off-beat delay vortexes to create lilting rhythms that suggest dub without attempting to mimic its familiar step. Each piece is split into brief movements, or variations on a theme, beginning with 'Subterranean', a three-part swirl of bleeps and wiggling oscillations that fritters away to almost nothing. 'The Long Wait' is a complete contrast, drawing on kosmische and structuring its synth sounds into arpeggiated sequences that seem to fold in on each other, transforming into warbling echoes, while 'To hold and be held' is a playful, filtered set of melodic rhythmic phrases that twinkle like staccato string plucks.
As the album descends into night, the music gets significantly more moonlit - not dark, exactly, but starry and crepuscular. 'Be without being seen' is the first taste of this dusky material, but the lengthy 'Les parenthèses enchantées' is the focal point, five lengthy variations that twinkle romantically, sounding as spiritually charged as Popol Vuh's 'Affenstunde'. On the opening movement, Schott weaves molasses-slow melodies through a pool of delays, and on the third segment, it begins to sound like a chorus of nocturnal creatures singing to each other in twilight. Schott has outdone herself with this one, using synthesized thickets of sound to express a level of emotionality that often eludes electronic music - if you enjoyed Lau Nau's stunning '5 x 4' then this is the perfect companion.