Everyone Alive Wants Answers is the debut record from 26-year-old Parisian Cecile Schott, recording under the Colleen moniker. Following a seven-inch release of the track “Babies” on France’s Active Suspension label, Schott caught the attention of London-based Leaf, home to esteemed Japanese minimalist Susumu Yakota. The resulting LP contains music that effortlessly transcends time and frequently contradicts itself, sounding as if it were made in the 1950s and 2004 simultaneously, as if it were produced by a group of musicians or lovingly assembled by one. Everyone Alive is brimming with emotion and evokes subtle images that resonate heavily within — visions of childhood and memories of times past.
The album’s overall sound can best be compared to William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops and is indicative of where his recordings might have meandered if they were stretched beyond the confines of two-bar repetitions. Everyone Alive shares the submerged, distant and slightly unnerving aesthetic, contrasted by the sense of warmth and comfort created in the analogue-sounding recordings. Disintegration Loops, though, stemmed from organic origins; Everyone Alive was created on a laptop, alone, and with modern composition techniques. To Schott’s credit, her debut doesn’t sound even remotely machine-made. Rather, it is a record tinged with subtle imperfection; fiercely intimate textures are sewn together with a personal, narrative feel.
The songs are emotive, fragile tones coming together in a very human fashion. A gentle, childlike naivete seemingly papers over the cracks, concealing something slightly sinister below. It’s the way you felt when you first listened to Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children, only instead of vintage synths and beats, think dusty piano loops, ancient-sounding xylophones, strings and glockenspiels.
The title track conjures images of springtime in the country, viewed by holding film negatives up to the light. Delicate string plucks mingle with samples of birds and lay amidst the pops and hiss of the tape. “Ritournelle” is a cinematic-sounding loop that, with a simple key change, conveys more emotion than infinitely more complicated works. The only distinct rhythmic element on the record appears with a distant heartbeat sample on “Carry-Cot.” The submerged tone, seemingly pulled straight from the chest cavity, anchors a haunting sample of a child’s enthusiastic banter mixed with the angelic strums of a harp. It’s the sound of memories, antiquated childhood recordings stashed in the attic only to be discovered after maturing.
Regardless of the images the songs suggest, the listener is blanketed with a sentiment that runs much deeper than the compositions on the surface. Though a few tracks are forgettable, Everyone Alive Wants Answers is an overall rewarding experience and one of the most stunningly different ambient records of the year. It is also a promising individual release from a pool of talented female electronic musicians including Mira Calix and Mileece, who bring warmth and emotion to a genre sometimes criticized as cold and lifeless.