Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: Bell Orchestre at the Paradiso

I went to see the lovely Bell Orchestre at Paradiso last night - below the video to 'throw it in the fire' is my review.

'We make art music, we're instrumental,' double bass player for Bell Orchestre, Richard Parry announces on their last song of the night with quotation fingers and mock-denial to the crowd who opt for a rock song over a love song, a choice put forward by violinist Sarah Neufeld.

For Parry and Neufeld, Bell Orchestre plays second fiddle to their busier, bigger band, Arcade Fire. However with Bell Orchestre, signed to Canada's flagship indie label Arts & Crafts, accompanied by fellow members Pietro Amato (French horn), Kaveh Nabatian (trumpet), Stefan Schneider (drums) and Mike Feuerstack (lap steel guitar) they incorporate the chamber pop elements of Arcade Fire while going beyond. Avant garde folk and jazz, moments of dub, el mariachi horns and yes, rock all get a look in to As Seen Through Windows their album released in march.

Live, admittedly at first I thought it would to be rough going. Their first song, a scattered collection of horns and strings. But as they settle in, or as I do, the experimentation with off-timings and shrill notes feel more cohesive, as grooves slide their way in and a momentum builds.
Possibly an 'art' outlet or a breeding ground for ideas, they swing from sweeping strings delicate, to the elephant-triumphant blows of the french horn and bass saxophone, onwards to shaking staccato rhythms. Parry's pulsing double bass pulls sounds from his quiver beyond his bow with drumsticks on strings, hand-drumming on the body, effects pedals building on Schneider's flexible percussive backbone. On top of the violins and brass, once they get going melodicas, keyboards and tricky overdubs all lend themselves to the cacophonic brink of the indie-orchestra before bringing it back down to simple 'oohs and aahs' of a distant choral group. It's the closest we got to actual singing - but it isn't missed.

The band themselves are upbeat. Not only were they on the last gig of their European tour but also extremely relieved to see more than one person in the Paradiso's kliene zaal – as was the case last time they played here. Instead it was 3/4 full and all very appreciative – and no doubt more next time.

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