Bell Orchestre: House Music at Southbank Centre
A decade since their 2009 EP, Who Designs Nature’s How, Montreal avant-garde group Bell Orchestre pair up with the Southbank Centre to broadcast a moodily shot, pre-recorded performance of their latest and highly anticipated full-length studio album, House Music.
Both the music and the filmed visual counterpart (directed by band member Kaveh Nabatian) are crafted almost entirely from a single improvisational session, and give the performance an effortless and hypnotic fluidity that emphasises the famed group’s successful merging of electronic and classical instrumentation. Although the piece’s cinematic choices are repetitive at points, House Music’s experimental blending of genres crafts a compelling listening journey and marks a strong return for Bell Orchestre after 12 years.
Shot against the backdrop of the dense Canadian forest, the six members begin their set, intertwining harmonic vocals and persistent electronics with a calming natural aesthetic. Beginning with the track, I: Opening, a simple melodic and folk-like loop is introduced, then carried throughout the rest of the group’s performance, making both the rendition of their album and its accompanying video feel like a fully realised and cohesive interdisciplinary experience.
However, that being said, the recording of Bell Orchestre’s performance with Nabatian’s cinematic direction is often outstripped by House Music’s compelling musical efforts across its ten tracks. The video utilises repetitive black and white transitions and faded close-ups on the musician’s hands, making the visuals of the Southbank centre’s broadcast feel stale at points. While compelling during the opening numbers, the monotonous visuals fail to fully capture the set’s melodic shifts and Stefan Schneider’s striking drumming during distinctive tracks III: Dark Steel and VI: All the Time.
But, despite these recurring cinematic choices, there is no denying the beauty of the setting or the emotional impact of the quiet forest paired with the hour-long sculpted improvisational music. Bell Orchestre, comprised of six of the most exciting current “musical mavericks”, lives up to expectations and fully embraces the emotional joy of discovering and making music throughout the performance. Working harmoniously and showcasing their individual instrumental expertise, the group leaves a lasting impression that will undoubtedly sate both lovers of experimental music and purists alike.
For further information and future events visit Bell Orchestre’s website here.
Watch the video for the single V: Movement here: