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Side By Side: Douglas Dare on Bell Orchestre's House Music

3.10  2021


Today in our new series Side by Side, UK singer-songsmith Douglas Dare shares his thoughts on Bell Orchestre's latest album House Music.

"My very first spin of Bell Orchestre’s House Music. I prepared a listening environment where I could devote my entire self to it; I lay a large cushion and soft blanket on the living room floor, the window was wide and the curtain gently billowed, I lay both myself and the needle down.

The forty five minutes or so that followed took me on a wild and hypnotic journey only interrupted by getting up to turn to the B side.

The album opens with a taste of what’s to come, an electro/acoustic milieu of displaced sounds that very quickly organise themselves into a gentle and spacious scene. Lead by the metronymic double bass and sweeping strings I picture a train journey across some green desert and with some stealth joins the percussion.

A successful instrumental piece, for me, is one where you can’t see the joints and Bell Orchestre master this; it’s only once I’m nodding my head back and forth, fully immersed in the pocket, that I realise a French horn has joined the journey and I’m loving it. Sonically I love how when listening closely you can pick out each instrument, yet when taking in the whole picture the instrument becomes something else. For example, the soaring and distorted electric guitar in 'III: Dark Steel' merging with the horns sounded to me like elephant calls. But more often than not I’m thinking less of the wild animals of deepest Africa, but the wild and animalistic nature of the club; the joy of sub bass cracking in on 'VI: All The Time', alongside the gloriously incessant cymbal hits, make me want to be head down and raving.

In the past I have not always enjoyed acoustic instruments being affected in such a way as to sound like their electronic counterparts, however House Music never leaves me missing the ‘real deal’, but instead helps me hear the instruments in a whole new way. I think this is best demonstrated in the strings on 'VII: Colour Fields', where the upper register notes oscillate around and around to the point where I’ve forgotten their true identity, and have once again been allowed to escape on the wild train journey.

Track 'IX: Nature That's It That's All.' prepares me for the closing, mirroring the generous chordal sweeps of the opening. This is a welcome break after all the previous rhythms. The pitch bending warbles remind me of a machine that has spent all its energy and is flexing its last efforts to work but, as is the beauty with instrumental music (and especially that which is predominately improvised), it’s never quite over. The gentle taps of the drums carrying me into the closing. I love this time to reflect after such a gloriously hectic forty or so minutes. As the strings and synths play out their last lines I am too gently brought back to my spot on the floor, curtain still waving but now an empty space between my eyes where this music once was. I feel refreshed and as if I’ve been on a long sleeper train, waking up in a new relaxed land."  — Douglas Dare

· discover House Music