Bell Orchestre return with their first full-length album in over a decade: House Music — an immersive ecosystem created by the acclaimed Montreal-based outfit, which include Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry — out March 19.
House Music unfolds as one long piece, a recorded-then-sculpted improvisation that vastly expands their work, coalescing classical and electronic instrumentation in the creation of genre-defying musical worlds.
After having shared the short film IX: Nature That’s It That’s All. — which layered archival visuals of blissed-out crowds at a carnival over one of the later, dreamier sections of House Music — Bell Orchestre presents a video for the one-track album’s most anthemic and explosive segment, V: Movement, directed by band-member Kaveh Nabatian.
In the album’s liner notes, the group recalls countless moments when, in kinetic moments of improvisation, “a nuanced piece of music would emerge organically, completely formed, without any plan or discussion or rational thought” — and then be lost because it wasn’t recorded. In conceiving a new album, they decided to celebrate the spontaneous and accidental, to centrally situate the act of collaborative, democratic creation in their finished work. With the legacies of improvisation-exploring greats like Talk Talk, The Orb, Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis and the late Ennio Morricone in mind, on House Music, Bell Orchestre captures the impulsive, connective, mysterious poetics of musical invention happening in real-time.
With help from engineer Hans Bernhard, the band wired every corner of Sarah Neufeld’s (Violin, vocals) multi-story rural Vermont house. She and the mini orchestra’s other five members — Pietro Amato: French horn, keyboards, electronics; Michael Feuerstack: Pedal steel guitar, keyboards, vocals; Kaveh Nabatian: Trumpet, gongoma, keyboards, vocals; Richard Reed Parry: Bass, vocals; and Stefan Schneider: Drums — assigned themselves to different rooms. They spent two weeks together in camaraderie, creation, and focused isolation to record their improvised sessions every day, but ultimately structured a 45-minute album out of a one hour-and-a-half long improvisation.
While edited and trimmed, and occasionally added to, the album itself is in large part the original recording — with the broad structure of its movements kept intact. This single piece of music — written almost entirely as it was being recorded — emerged with no parameters beyond the inclusion of a short harmonic loop Parry had brought in as a starting point, which coheres and propels the album as it moves forward through the birth; vigorous, unrestrained growth; and ultimate slowdown of the musical ecosystem it creates. What the band generated is an album that lays bare the contours of a lived musical moment.