Bell Horses is a collaboration between Xian Hawkins of Sybarite and singer/songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs. I have reviewed Sybarite on EvilSponge in the past, and i tend to enjoy his skittering IDM. Ms. Youngs (Ms. Owen Youngs?) seems vaguely familiar to me, at least in name, but a quick Internet search on her song titles doesn't turn up anything that i recognize. I don't think i am familiar with her work at all. However, i like what she brings to this mix, specifically some nice guitarwork and a husky female voice. She is well utilized in this act.
This album is actually over a year old, which makes it a strange subject for a review. Well, it still exists. Older music is still out there, and people pick up things other than brand new releases all the time. I admit that i got this because i found a used copy very cheap, and because of the Sybarite connection. I am, however, rather pleased with this purchase.
First off, this is not a Sybarite album. There is some of his IDM technique used here and there, but mostly this is an indie rock album. There are vocals that are not some sample cut and pasted into a strange shape, and there is real drumming and guitars. It is a sort of fusion, a blending of electronica and pop. And it works really well. No one song fully belongs to either genre, and it is this overlap that i enjoy here. Let's consider a few examples.
Small Hours is a light rock tune with male vocals courtesy of one Alexander Ericson. Ms. Youngs adds backing vocals, and there is a slight electro processing: a beat skips randomly here, a voice is echoed there. At the end of the song, the music becomes a little noodley with some spacey electro sounds added to the guitars and drums.
Billowing is a three minute instrumental of guitar and electro beats. It builds into a slow haze that grows into The Comb, where spacey electronic drones are combined with some excellent scattered drumming, layers of chiming guitar, and Youngs' voice. With the echoing drone backing the indie rock, this song comes across like some sort of mellow shoegaze tune. It grows to a very lovely ending with strings and wordless, heavily echoed singing.
The Storm follows the opposite progression from the Comb in that is starts with acoustic rock and is slowly overwhelmed by IDM. Ms. Youngs really pushes her voice, which is nicely layered and reminds me a lot of Laurence Marital-Guilhem on that IHR record (which coincidentally is from around the same time that this record came out). The combination of Youngs' voice in layers and the slightly manipulated beats really works.
I am impressed. I don't know if This Loves Lasts Time is all that we will hear from this collaboration, but i am happy with what i hear.