Album Review: Eight Bells – “Landless”

eight bells landless
Artwork by Nate Burns

Landless is a bit of “wait and reward.” Long ambient passages, epic build ups and soft harmonies give way to rewards in the form of well-paced, driving sections of addictive, drum-forward rock. Appropriate, as the addition of Thrawsunblat drummer and Immortal Bird vocalist Rae Amitay provides the atmospheric and remains filled experience necessary for Eight Bells. Despite being entitled Landless, the album feels anchored by oceanside plains. It’s as if the music is tracing the cartography of these lands; pulling the listener along with them.

It’s near nine full minutes before the first scream erupts from the throat of Haley Westeiner. But in that almost nine minutes Eight Bells expertly weaves layers of sonic cartography. And when the scream finally erupts it’s enough to shake anyone to their core. That’s the genius of so called psychedelic music — it actually affects your mind. And the Portland-based trio of Eight Bells certainly knows how to infect your insides. Their music gets under your nails and into your hair and burrows deep into you brain. It’s due to a combination of confidence and ability that culminate in an EP that takes it’s time and doesn’t shoot its wad early.

Patience. It’s something that many bands lack. Writers lineup to speak about the immediacy of many bands. And while that’s all good, sometimes it’s the patience; the ever-so-patient crescendo building over the course of an entire track that is what reaches out and grips your heart. Certainly it’s easier to entice listeners with what’s there. Perhaps it’s riffs or blast beats or a dedication to constant assault. But it takes special talent and songwriting to grab the listener with what’s not there; to entice the listener with merely the mood or emotion of your music. Eight Bells are experts here. As Landless weaves across different landscapes listeners can be enticed by the sonic ascensions. The patience to be at once familiar with guitar work and harmonies while balancing that harmony with a discordant discomfort.

eight bells band photo

It might even be fair to label Eight Bells a jam band of sorts. Certainly tracks such as “Hold My Breath” lend themselves to elongated jams and solos when performed live. And the band absolutely has the talent to back up a 15 minute-plus live performance. It’s not that far off to say that Eight Bells is the perfect combination of Brian Eno, Ulver and King Crimson. A blend of styles that seemingly wouldn’t fit together expertly handled through musicianship and composition to create an album of emotional breadth and raw talent.

– Manny-O-War

Landless is available 2.12.2016 via Battleground Records. For more information on Eight Bells check out their official website.


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