The Bell Orchestre - Icicles, Bycicles

Artist: The Bell Orchestre

Song: Icicles, Bycicles

Album: As Seen Through Windows (2009)


The Montreal sextet Bell Orchestre is a group you may have heard of but never actually heard. That’s because they released a debut of attractive but instrumental pieces somewhere between classical and rock (2005’s Recording a Tape the Colour of the Light), but it’s also because two of the six are full-time members of another Montreal group, Arcade Fire. (Bell Orchestre is led by Richard Reed Parry, Arcade Fire’s double bassist, who also plays some other instruments.) That last bit may help explain why a sophomore album’s been a while coming, because these musicians are pretty busy with their other job. But a new Bell Orchestre album is welcome, despite the delay.

The group’s been in residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts, a resume highlight that seems to indicate a certain seriousness of purpose here. And the band’s music affords such an approach—serious without being dour, it shares much of modern classical’s experimentation, much of its disrespect for boundaries. At the same time, this group does occasionally use percussion as a rhythm-driver (not just as a timbre of its own), and in this they slide closer to groups like Godspeed You! Black Emperor in the instrumental rock category. When they do this, they produce some of the most compelling material on the album. Bucephalus Bouncing Ball”, a cover of an Aphex Twin song from the 1997 Come to Daddy EP, has the ticking percussion of the original, but retains a classy sheen of lush romanticism. A trumpet fanfare provides an emphatic conclusion.


(…) “Icicles/Bicycles” has the frosty beauty of a desolate, wind-blown tundra—listening to it is almost as potent a journey as Smetana’s “Die Moldau”.


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