15 Questions to Maile Colbert
“In discussing a recent installation, LA based sound designer and film maker Maile Colbert emphasized the importance of reconstructed memories, even if they are generated through repression, disassociation or the inaccurate recollection of factual details. These ideas continue on Moborosi, a collection of abstracted vignettes published through Paul Bradley’s imprint. This is quite the detour from Bradley’s typical preference for deep drone work; instead, Colbert offers a delicate array of structural loops and backwards lullabies. At times, she positions granulated samples of digital errata in lockstep with mechanised loops; elsewhere, her compositions drift in a out of placid Ambient passages. Colbert counters the porcelain fragility and cool detachment found throughout these recordings on “Day of Fire”, which features the plainsong vocals of Gabriela Crowe. In the bricolage of fleeting details and smeared electronica, her voice is a baroque feature which suggests the kind of surrogate memory that Colbert seems to be searching for.”
Review by Jim Haynes, The Wire 286, December 2007
"Maile Colbert has mentioned that she needs the help of all senses to feel “whole” and a balanced person. A director, video artists and composer, all aspects of her work are mutually influenced by each other, each uttering constituting a synthesis of the most diverse disciplines. .. This may be a reason why she is currently working on completing an ambitious opera project on “millennialism and apocalyptic thought and theory” with singer Gabriela Crowe. Opera, after all, has traditionally been seen as the art of arts and the one genre which binds all others together. It does not seem far-fetched, therefore, to regard “moborosi”, as much as it has been conceived as a self-sufficient album, as the overture to the larger work taking shape in the background. .. In fact, it may be regarded as a concise introduction into her oeuvre as a whole. This just over thirty minute long debut contains a collaboration with above mentioned Gabriela Crowe, features poetry by her brother Ian as well as her soundtrack contributions to “How little we know of our Neighbors”, Rebecca Baron’s documentary on the “Mass Observation” public spying project in the UK - and fully demonstrates her versatility and ability to integrate her personal approach into the equally idiosyncratic work of others. .. As a composer, Colbert’s style may be characterised by a perfect symbiosis between the ages: Monophonic chant, classical themes and reverb-pedalled broken piano chords have the same status on “moborsi” as aerial, translucent drones, backwards-played themes, electric configurations and filtered synthesizers, without anything appearing irregular or out of place. .. Another distinct feature consists in her technique of naturally placing these musical objects within close range of each other and of playing them back simultaneously, without regard of whether this does their historic background justice or whether their tonalities match for 100%. .. This is not meant to be disrespectful. Colbert merely sees and hears with different eyes and ears, her entire sensory system is geared towards an intuitive view of the world and towards finding out “how elements (...) around us effect us psychologically and physiologically”. Just as if she were using the short stretch of this album as a space for reflection, it keeps coming back to the same trains of thought, with some strings overlapping and synthesizing as part of a Freud’ean materialism. .. Everything on this record is self-referential, with tracks popping out of other pieces like smaller babushkas hiding inside their taller counterparts: The piano of “Day of Fire” is part of “Broken Camera Sunset”, the barely one-minute long “Sweet still Sleep” is contained within “primitive” and the abstract rhythmic charges of “begin” act as a Leitmotif for the entire work. .. Consequently, a hermetic, haunting, slightly surreal and yet inwardly quiet mood is predominant on “moborosi”, its structures speaking to each other in tongues, as its body awakens in the middle of a full-moon night, startles and falls back to sleep again. Still, things are never opaque or oblivious – Colbert’s artistic language is clear and coherent, her tone soft and void of radical outbursts. .. There is no need at all for her to feel envious of her brother’s abilities as a chef, expressing himself fully through his food. While she may need the help of all senses to function as a person, her music definitely doesn’t need any visuals to be appreciated."
Tobias Fischer, Tokafi
"Processed with flange, reverb, and delay, these pieces are bunkered in breathy, teeming harmonics that hover above these clusters of incandescent notes, which time and again culminate in a bending skyward wail. .. In its thirty-minute life-span, the action is often heavily stylised and cross-cutting different genres - shifting quickly, yet meaningfully, from these passages, to even more discrete moments, where loops are constantly shifting by tiny degrees. In addition, during these more vigilant sections, Colbert’s style, with its oblique use of tonality, is colourful and alluring, but also wry, detached and frigid. .. Thus, pieces such as "Day Of Fire" work with a racing, tumbling loop, filled up by tiny glitches like rocks rolling down a streambed, and deflated by languorous descents into near stillness. All of this reaches its zenith in "Blinding Begin Again", which builds slow dynamic curves by countering long probing lines with soft anchoring tones that leave the impression that all is evaporating into impenetrable darkness. Taken together, then, Moborosi reveals a complex and adaptable figure in Colbert."
Max Schaefer, EARlabs
"Maile Colbert, from Los Angeles, is a filmmaker, video and sound artist whose activities include teaching sonic design and applying her craft to other people's work, especially in the movie, documentary and installation areas. "Moborosi" is the author's misspelling of the Japanese word "Maborosi", which should approximately be translated as "phantasmic light" and enclose vague concepts of "otherworldly, a bit lonely, a bit of longing, a bit of hope and wonder" (a monk indicated a distant luminescence in the nocturnal view of an harbour to give Colbert an idea of what this concept means). Of the same importance is the quality of the record which, although not exactly conforming to the Twenty Hertz canon of advanced electronica, evolved ambient and droning soundscapes, is truly of the "short and sweet" kind, lasting in fact only half an hour filled with moments to be repeatedly savoured and definitely remembered. The composer is extremely clever in her choice of not fossilizing herself on a specific setting, possessing an uncanny ability in elaborating the right alternance of evocative ambiences and juxtaposed pictures, offering a series of aural snapshots whose contrasting character outgrows the limits of the recorded format to expand within our system with the delicacy of a fine perfume. We hear voices singing in Latin and reciting poetry amidst slowly melting backgrounds, misshapen dreams, strange loops of electric bass, a carillon reproducing "Greensleeves", snippets from old records -- la Janek Schaefer, female choirs, environmental fragments, impressive subterranean frequencies, interferences abruptly changing a previously oneiric scenario. The listeners are put in confront with those invisible entities that dematerialize thoughts during the REM phase of sleep. It's a very personal style, despite being made of pretty familiar elements; we're not too far off the target when suggesting names like Helena Gough and Gavin Bryars as just two of the many entrance points for an optimal approach to this deeply inquisitive release."
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
Disembodied voices both rue and rule the day on Moborosi, the debut album by Los Angeles native Colbert, but it’s not a disorienting effect — something that carries with it the implication of the remote and the disconnected. Rather, it’s an album of collected moments (like a photo album), of birds and crickets and cities changing and possibly musical instruments in there someplace — moments that inspire the curiosity of a child without the vaguest smidge of fear. Inspiring close and attentive listening, it’s a collection of spaces: hollow spaces, tinny spaces, private spaces and “in what universe is this?” spaces. You come away from Moborosi with the feeling that something slightly profound just happened, and you won’t know quite what it is. Not yet.
David Cotner, Signal to Noise
."A work in perpetual rote, longing for a corner or glimmer, or surface, fallen and astonished, grieving, hopeful in transit, and beginning, only beginning, to view the photo-negative, or blur where heat is rising and the entropy of things is faintly ok"
Ian Colbert, poet and brother