April 25th, 2008 - Nublu - East Village, Manhattan - Bell
Review and Images by Dominick Mastrangelo
In the future, the not-too-distant future when everyone is talking about Brooklyn-based band Bell, and specifically the charismatic leader, Olga Bell, you'll hear her compared to a certain Icelandic pop singer. A compliment for sure and as much as I wanted to write a review of her performance at Nublu on Friday night without mentioning her, I find it impossible. And in less capable hands it would be wholly unfair to saddle someone with such expectation. But Bell takes it in stride and at the intimate East Village nightclub she eschewed the covers that have garnered her much attention these past few months and focused on her own material including those on her new self-released EP.
Though awkwardly positioned in the highest traffic area of the club (where bar and band were less than three feet from each other) songs like "Echinacea" with hand claps and blips and Bell's soaring, confident voice, pushed the set forward and her excellent band mates, drummer Jason Nazary, bassist Michael Chiavaro and guitarist Grey McMurray brought out the nuances off the song's intricate arrangements. Though she is responsible for much of the instrumentation on the EP, there is so much going on in her songs that it would be all but impossible to pull off alone, live and stay faithful to the recorded version.
The way she softly delivered "Brown Bear"'s simple speak verse "It's so hard sometimes to carry, carry on..." you imagine it quietly played out in late night diner conversation over coffee. Then, driving her point home, she belted out the song's chorus ("Cause it's so hard to carry on, when the currents carry you so far from home...") with such force it echoed in the tiny club. And it's moments like these - where she let's loose - that she sounds most like Bjork. But not exactly. And away from those moments, her voice produced a fuller, steadier sound that is all her own. Thus, the initial, overwhelming comparison comes off a bit short-sighted.
On May 15th, Bell performs at the Mercury Lounge opening for Snowden and Colour Revolt with fellow Brooklyn electro-pop band, The Epochs.