Like Bells

“Sea Salt” – Like Bells

And this one, not so simple. But still pure, in its own way. “Sea Salt” begins with such an extended introduction that first time through you are excused if you think it’s an instrumental. This long opening section unfolds via a series of eight-measure riffs that, together, slowly develop and shift the feel and texture of the music. We begin with a nimble bass line plucking out a handsome, ambling groove over tapping cymbals. After eight measures of that, a rhythm guitar joins, lightly played, and off the beat. Pay particular attention to the goings-on in the third eight-measure set, beginning at 0:35, featuring the introduction of the violin, as it plays a melody that becomes important much later. Then the lead guitar steps in for an eight-measure answer.

The next two minutes explores the musical ground established by the first minute, with the violin and guitar each having a chance to to lead the way, each in turn moving steadily into louder and more involved playing. This ends up being quite a bit of fun, since the trio (guitar-drums-violin; bass playing is split between the guitarist and the violinist) met while students at the Oberlin Conservatory. Which means they are actual musicians. Which is a nice bonus in the indie rock world. I like that the instrumental section maintains a nice clip—it seems too easy here in 21st-century rock’n’roll-land for instrumentals to bog down in overly dramatic slowness—and I like the relatively unexpected but musically satisfying entrance of actual vocals three and a half minutes into the proceedings. Violinist Garrett Openshaw does the singing, and he hinted as much back at 0:35 when the first thing he played on his instrument was the melody he would eventually sing.

Like Bells’ self-titled 2009 debut was pretty much all instrumental, with just a hint of vocalizing from Openshaw. Palma, their 35-minute, seven-song new album, features more singing, but as you can see from “Sea Salt,” the singing does not necessarily dominate. The album was released digitally in April and is now out on vinyl as well, on Exit Stencil Recordings. MP3 via Exit Stencil.




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