Bell w/ Asobi Seksu, Resplandor – [Live]

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Arriving at the Independent on Friday, the line of music fans huddled together trying to escape the frigid 50-degree San Francisco weather was already snaking down the street. I wasn’t quite sure how many would be in attendance for this show, but I quickly realized that any of my guesses would have been woefully short of the mark.

Sandwiched between the wistful, shimmering guitars of Resplandor from Peru and the sugary Lost in Translation-esque soundscape created by Brooklyn’s Asobi Seksu, the band I was most excited to see was Bell. Having self-released their debut EP last year, Bell quickly earned slots on both of my Ground Control “2008 Half-Year and Review” and “2008 Mix Tape” best-of lists. Repeat performers at Austin’s SXSW Festival, they have garnered critical acclaim and more than a few admirers within the music community.

With barely enough recorded music to satisfy a full live set, Olga Bell, with Jason Nazary on drums and Gunnar Olsen on drums and samples, was quick to captivate every ear in the packed house. Olga’s wonderfully quirky vocals sat perfectly atop skittering, syncopated layers of rhythms. Maybe it’s just because I am a sucker for interesting new bands with dual-drummers, but it is always refreshing to find musicians who manage to carve out their own wall of sound so well. There was not a single guitar on stage—who would have thunk it?

I will forego any further comparisons to Björk or references to Olga being “Russian-born, Alaska-raised and Brooklyn-based.” Bell worked through their set including “that clapping song” “Echinacea,” the melancholic “Brown Bear,” a raucous performance of “Housefire,” the densely synthy “Magic Tape” and ended with the compellingly honest lyrics of “The Miner.” In every case, Olga’s vocals were able to transition effortlessly from a diaphanous whisper to jingly, blissful effervescence and all the way to a potent wail.

Missing from the show were Bell’s outstanding cover of Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” and a version of Radiohead’s “Videotape,” which morphs nicely into Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser.” With the music they provided though, I hardly missed these at all. With a new full-length album due soon, I have high hopes that this is only the beginning of the brilliance from Bell.


"Echinacea" by Bell – [mp3]


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