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Bell – Diamonite

on June 15, 2011, 7:59am
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Brooklyn via Alaska via Russia musician Olga Bell is classically trained, but with her band Bell, she creates idiosyncratic synth pop. Originally a solo project, Bell has become a band with Gunnar Olsen and Jason Nazary along for the ride. Although this first full-length was still over two years away, Bell received national attention in 2009 after opening for skygazers Asobi Seksu.

After that tour, her various singles, and self-titled EP, Bell’s voice has drawn numerous comparisons to Björk, and admittedly this is strengthened by the fact that Bell has covered the Icelandic songstress’s “It’s Oh So Quiet”. Such parallels are often unfair and disproportionately plague female-fronted bands and solo artists, but can be accurate and even serve as a useful point of reference to an unfamiliar reader. On Diamonite, their long-awaited debut album, Bell illustrates how flawed comparisons like these can be.

What makes Bell intriguing is that, while moments on Diamonite might recall other artists, the band never sounds imitative or even descendant of those influences. For example, in contrast to Björk’s uniquely emotive, higher-being intonations, Bell’s voice is characterized by a confident cool that enunciates with a deliberate clarity, regardless of the level of intensity. Quirky comes in many different forms, after all.

This distinctive vocal quality serves as the common thread among the 10 tracks of Diamonite, regardless of how she uses it or how musically disparate the music may be, thanks to varied and inventive usage of layered synths and percussion. “River” brings an exploration of the sensual and danceable side of Bell, while “Eat Seeds” concludes the album on a dreamily surrealist note. Diamonite is at its most lustrous on the songs that shift gears erratically, such as the ever-evolving “Charlie”. Album highlight “Magic Tape” builds overwhelming tension, as it switches between airy lament and menacingly sinister. Lyrics where record store-closing ogres say “Young one, fee fi fo fum/I’ll raise your rent/I’ll raze this whole waterfront” would be laughable or even a grating deal breaker on most albums, but in the world Bell have created on Diamonite, they are a perfect fit.

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