To be honest Bell X1 is a band we have little knowledge of here and even less awareness aurally of, but being offered the suggestion that the Irish trio create an enterprising and adventurous blend of electronic music and anthemic pop rock, we approached their new and sixth album Chop Chop with eagerness. Released via BellyUP, the nine track album was full of surprises and intrigue. To existing fans it may have familiarity to its evocative songs, only they can say but one suspects such the imposing yet seductive nature of the release and its individual charms, there was a tapestry of invention and melodic exploratory which was making its first tantalising breath.
Consisting of multi-instrumentalist Dave Geraghty, vocalist Paul Noonan, and bassist Dominic Phillips, Bell X1 is said by the accompanying promo with Chop Chop to have stripped down their sound to its essential textures and emotive essences. Certainly the album is a journey of warm and hazy climes which avoids excesses but it still boils up ambiences which swelter with sonic discord and melodic disorientation whilst accompanying atmospheres caress the listener into reflective and intimate landscapes. It is a release which requires multiple listens to fully form the evolving imagery and provocative rewards offered but is an expanding and fresh adventure each time.
First track Starlings Over Brighton Pier teases with melancholic keys and a scattering of rhythmic brushes which persistently dances over the ear as the mesmeric tones of Noonan accompany the piano on an evocative stroll through the heart of the track, their combined reflective embrace a gentle push of one’s own memories and thoughts. Its dusty ambience gains intensity as the track opens up more of its melodic and provocative hues becoming an impacting sonic squall of windy discord and almost cacophonous depths.
The strong start is soon left behind by the excellent A Thousand Little Downers. Once more a gentle touch brings the song into a welcoming embrace from the passions, vocals and keys kissing the senses gently and infectiously. It is a lure soon increased in its sirenesque appeal by the romping rhythms, pulsating bass persuasion and the shifting sonic winds drifting across the enchanting skies of the track. It is an indie pop temptation which leaves tingles across the heart, especially when its discord lined flames of horns and energy expel their moments of fevered passion. One of the major highlights of the album the song leaves a high plateau to be matched by the rest of Chop Chop, and impressively attempt the challenge the songs try as the likes of the smouldering emotively thick Careful What You Wish For, the electro spotted I Will Follow You, and the sultry folk soaked Drive-By Summer unveil their own distinctive narratives and temptress like glamour.
The final three songs do take things to another level, the trio all competing for top honours to end the release on a lofty perch in the ear and passions. Motorcade sways and winds its tender melodic fingers around the ear with craft and expressive beauty, a Mike Doughty essence whispering loudly within the colour tinted sonic and lyrical tale prowled persistently by lingering shadows. As great as it is the song is a mere appetiser for firstly Feint Praises and closing song The End Is Nigh. The first of the final two has a sixties swagger to its soulful potency as well as a dramatic elegance emphasised by the bewitching vocals and bursts of sun soaked horns. It is a delicious track which would steal the honours were it not its sensational successor. Initially a reserved burst of emotional vocal declaration over guitars and keys adding their almost taunting suasion, the song builds up its energy and intensity to stomp and roam all over senses and thoughts like a darkly troubadour lost in an ambience of end of days inevitability. It is an absorbing and anthemic tempest of fiery melodies, sonic influence, and heart borne vocals bringing the album to a stormy and towering close.
It is fair to say that the Peter Katis & Thomas Bartlett produced Chop Chop did not light the fires inside as consistently as probably wished but when it did, as at its start and finish, it leaves a rich and lasting imaginative toxicity which was as flavoursome as you could wish.
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