Erin Wolf

Human Bell

By - Jan 1st, 2008 02:52 pm
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Nathan Bell (Lungfish,Television Hill) and Dave Heumann (Arbouretum,Bonnie “Prince” Billy) could be the musical equivalent of Civil War re-enactors. Their conspired effort, Human Bell, creates an atmosphere akin to that of an organic battlefield – a dirge-y sweep of chaos, simultaneously cold as metal and mellow as a field of grass droning with insects.

Recorded by Paul Oldham and mixed by John McEntire, the guitar strings sound as though they reverberate into a tin cup while the crash cymbals and brushes fight to be the main percussive attraction. Add lots of meandering fuzz to the steady progression of songs, and they grow and change just by standing still. Bell and Heumann give us a Tortoise-like bite to chew on – a veritable novel for an audience accustomed to short stories.

Through wave after wave of this seemingly cathartic sonic expedition, songs alternate between the quiet, such as “Ephaphatha (Be Opened),” swaying in a brassy swaddling of horns, and the forceful, calculated twitchiness of “The Singing Trees.” Human Bell’s self-titled release is a test in endurance, but should be savored for its meditative qualities. The duo lives up to their name (an uncanny combination of the musician’s surnames), their music widely resonating even during their live shows, when two skeleton guitars must manipulate the body of their recorded music. (On their album, Bell and Heumann host guests such as Matt Riley, Michael Turner, Pete Townshend and Ryan Rapsys.) Human Bell encapsulates a quiet beauty that is at once reflective, progressive and sparklingly macabre.

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