"The Golden Morning Breaks"
A HAWK AND A HACKSAW
"Darkness at Noon"
Rock 'n' roll may be dead, but indie rock continues to expand its purview, if not its audience, with sounds that have nothing to do with rhythm or blues. This week's example is Colleen, a French sound-spinner who took the title for her second album, "The Golden Morning Breaks," from a piece by 16th-century lutist John Dowland. These bobbling instrumentals sometimes evoke Renaissance madrigals, as well as Indonesian gamelan and -- at their most tinkly -- Victorian music boxes.
The musician, whose given name is Cecile Schott, made her debut with an album composed entirely of samples. This time the compositions began live, performed entirely by Colleen on cello, guitar, chimes and other instruments. The last category includes various electronic devices, with which she alters and expands the sound. The resulting trills, echoes and drones suggest phase-pattern composer Steve Reich minus rhythm or My Bloody Valentine without aggression. In other words, such liquid fragments as "Summer Water" and "The Happy Sea" are the latest reflection of Brian Eno's ambient music. Most of these tracks shimmer and fade, but Colleen does better when her compositions gradually accumulate detail. It won't convert anyone who prefers music with some grit, but the 11-minute "Everything Lay Still" has a backbone beneath its wispy twitterings.
A Hawk and a Hacksaw, aka Jeremy Barnes, is also a one-man band, although he did enlist some other musicians to appear on his second album, "Darkness at Noon." Formerly the drummer of quirk-pop band Neutral Milk Hotel, Barnes plays accordion, keyboards and electronics in addition to percussion on these mostly instrumental compositions, which range all over the map but show a particular affinity for Spanish and Eastern European tones. (The peripatetic Barnes took the name of his alter ego from "Don Quixote" and has recently lived in Prague.) There are rambunctious moments, notably during the opening "Laughter in the Dark," but the overall mood is elegiac.
By the time the album ends with "Portlandtown," an antiwar standard, A Hawk has completed a voyage from Andalucia to Americana.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Friday at the Warehouse Next Door with Manhunter.