“Chimes & Bells” – ‘Chimes & Bells’
Ethereal melancholia: sluggish anti-speed delirium, warped in a baritone, empyrean wonderland of instrumental, Scandinavian simplicity. That is Danish-band ‘Chimes & Bells’: a twisted liquorish all-sort of ‘Flashy Python’ meets ‘The XX’, where even the euphemisms dark-chocolate or espresso-black pale in comparison to its pessimistic undercurrent of complete and utter darkness. ‘Interpol’, eat your heart out.
With my insatiable hankering for something bluesy surprisingly satisfied, I return to Highly Evolved after nearly a month of soul-searching midst assignments with an album I just can’t seem to put down. Their official, self-titled debut emerges after their critically acclaimed EP, “Into Pieces Of Wood”, successfully released ‘09 to ever-growing recognition and positive-reception. Debut-comparisons are the likes of ‘Tame Impala’ (“Innerspeaker“), with a refined calibre of uncategorical style and technique. While the overused tag of indie fails to encompass even the slightest margin of ‘Chimes & Bells’, it is similarly rash to singularly suggest either alternative, rock or even post-rock in its place. For at times, it will be all of these things, and then none of these things; a mixture of conflicting acoustical/electrical instrumentation – guitar, percussion, synth, saxophone and string are only the beginning. To listen is to shoegaze: drift across the room as a ghostly astral projection pinned helplessly against the wall. Those optimists still teddy-hugging their pillows to sleep best turn away, for ‘Chimes & Bells’ is anything but happy…
Cæcilie Trier, twenty-six-year-old Danish multi-instrumentalist, is the architect behind ‘Chimes & Bells’, previously a part of such bands as ‘Le Fiasko’ and ‘Choir Of Young Believers’. Spearheading vocals, Trier is like an antimatter Florence Welsh from “Florence + The Machine”. A ten-piece band in all, consisting of: Hans Emil Hansen, Jeppe Brix Sørensen, Silas Tinglef Hageman, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, Jaleh Negari, Jakob Falgren, Jeppe Skjold, Sonja LaBianca and Maja Zander.
Just shy of the forty-minute mark, “Chimes & Bells” is teasingly short, but nevertheless enjoyable – without distasteful fillers. Instead, a rather filling eight-track listing averaging around four- to six-minutes each. Whether it’s the minimalistic approach towards instrumental-coupling, guitar and saxophone, percussion and guitar, or simply Trier herself with everything else conspiring together in unity, nothing seems overdone, outdrawn or oversimplified.
The tracks resemble melodramatic sludge, oozing and ebbing with tidal angst and malevolent undertones; where pace seems underdog to gargantuan displays of exhaustive lethargy. The dominance of Trier on vocals, in tandem with an almost unyielding combination of guitar-percussion duets, manifest throughout the album in one form or another. Lyrically, words are predominantly distorted in a thick haze of synth, while vocals are resonantly-airy. Its bluesy-jazzy atmosphere reeks of solitude, of late-night wanderings through the underground, a manifesto of the shadow. While their unique flavour remains unvarying within each song – enough to allow a casual bleed from one track to the next seamlessly – it is not enough to impact on their individuality. And being characteristically monotone in effect, crescendos are rounded to the consistency of a dull roar.
“The Mole” opens for “Chimes & Bells” with a relatively hushed beginning, reduced to the skeletal bonds between Trier, the solo hum of an impending synth-scape and the occasional sound of glass bells tolling. The introduction of string conforms the urgency within the vocals into an understated crescendo where everything else just sort of tumbles into place at 1:52. The electro-acoustical harmonies flow effortlessly together, bleeding out and into “Reasons”, where the ethnic, Asian-qualities of a mandolin help to offset Trier in a sort of role-reversing lead. When drum-kit percussion appears at 2:02, the track peaks slightly – and like “The Mole”, everything just eases into place without much need for an explosion. Then this couplet ends, dying away in place of “The Dot” which starts this elegant process all over again.
Tracks like “This Far” and “Do The Right” feature dominating guitar riffs in a simplistic style akin to ‘Interpol’ – their integrity is held together through tidy riffs altering scale but not form. Solos are in turn sacrificed for this repetitive order, and instead act like keynotes or signifiers for ease of recognisability. This same attribute is then turned on its head, following the end of “Do The Right” where saxophones play off one another leading up to “Pool”, where the guitar dominates in a particularly beautiful solo, descending through an effortless string of notes.
“Lashes”, finale for “Chimes & Bells”, is similarly timid and withdrawn in nature. Trier features more explicitly, surrounded less-so by her instruments during speech than previous, which are left to reinforce her breaks. Its miniature crescendos are really the only place where they combine more avidly. But it isn’t enough to look at this track as an ending for “Chimes & Bells” – because of its tracks’ (overall) well-rounded construction – any one of them could be a beginning, and just the same, an end.
What frightens me the most is that this astoundingly brilliant debut had the potential to slip through my fingers unnoticed; I just happened to stumble upon it by accident. And while I wish there was more that “Chimes & Bells” could offer, I write this review wholeheartedly satisfied because of its rewarding impact. I cannot underline its faults, but I think I’ve boot-licked it enough. It is simply epic…
Reviewer’s Pick: “Reasons”
Stand-out Tracks: “The Mole”, “Reasons”, “Do The Right”, “Pool”
The Enantiomorphic God.