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  A 24 Syllable Haiku  
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As you probably know, i went gaga over the first Isobella album, Akasha, a brilliant album of subtle male-female vocal interplay buried under an ocean of guitars, keyboards, and drums. As i discovered upon seeing Isobella back in November of 2000, the drummer/male vocalist has since left the band. So, in a way, this album is the debut release from the new 3-piece Isobella.

Since i am, to use Malimus's terminology, "Isobella's FanBoy", bear with me while i examine the album in excruciating detail. It's only 10 songs, so we should be through before Thursday. Ready? Let's go....


Olive starts the album off with a wall of guitars that would have sounded right at home on Akasha. Eventually, it slows down a bit, and Laura Poinsette's clear voice floats in; she is the only vocalist left, so let's call her the lead vocalist. Olive is an energetic but lovely little song.

Kidnap Someone And Make Them Happy kicks off with a fuzzy drum loop accompanying Poinsette's singing and keyboards. This goes on for almost 30 seconds (!) before the guitars chime in. This is a good catchy tune with lovely guitar interplay and is one of my favorites on the album. What i like about it is that it shows a creative use of the drum machine. Rather than simply using the devise to replicate the AWOL "Heath", this sounds almost "hip-hop" in its beats. Move forward, young drummerless band!

Diana's Secret Star starts slowly with wailing guitars over Poinsette's emotive singing. This vocal style she has now -- it only shows through on a few tunes, and, well, i have issues with it. In fact, i call it her "Sinead voice". You know, a certain natural tremolo in a high-pitched female voice combined with a flatness to the vowels.... Reminds me of Sinead O'Connor. Sinead's voice always annoyed me, but Laura Poinsette manages to pull it off with only a few moments that stick out to me. This song is one of those moments.

I think the reason that she can pull it off might be the backing music. Let's face it, Sinead's albums were all about voice and everything else was a mere accompaniment. Isobella, on the other hand, are definately a guitar band. The twin guitar attack of Shane McLaughlin and Brad Richardson is the foundation of the rich Isobella sound. Poinseete's voice seems to carry a significant amount of weight, but not all of it: it is as significant to the Isobella sound as that wall of guitars, not moreso.

Anyway, the vocals on Diana's Secret Star stick out a bit to me. On the whole though, this is a pretty good song. It works well within the general flow of the album, and the feedback-laden bridge works really nicely with the strong keyboard rhythm.

Illuminous Insect could also have come off of Akasha. It features a good wall of guitars and some really forceful drum programming. In fact, a real drummer would have been great here. It also sounds like there is a cello buried in the back of the song. This might just be a residual cello sound carried over from the general cultural zeitgeist. Anyway, this song ends with a nice decent into guitar noise, so much so that it almost buries her voice.... Very well done.

Guitars whirl and the keys dominate on Half Man, Half Circle, which again features a strong drum loop that would have been more powerful had it been played by a human. Poinsette sings this one in a quiet and almost understated voice that really works, especially when combined with the dominant keyboard melody. In the middle, there is a squealing distorted guitar part that sounds almost mournful when paired with her voice. A very nice and sad track.

After the understated voice of Half Man, Half Circle, Poinsette lets it all out on Autopilot. I think that this song features her best vocal performance on the disc: the chorus where she sings "Force of habit" over and over on top of some really fuzzy guitar arpeggios is simply sublime. The guitars and the keyboard melody are good here too, and there is some nice military drumming in this song. On the whole, this is a fun catchy song.

Reflections has an electronica/synth pop opening. Seesawing guitar arpeggios fade in, but the keys remain in front. There is a great keyboard solo (well, almost solo) in the middle, when the guitars recede into a low hum and the drumming becomes minimal.

Beneath The Flood starts out mourfully, with slow aching guitars. Poinsette's voice joins in, singing very intensely. This song is laden with tension from the drum machine to the guitars to her voice. The tension is relaxed a little by the feedback explosion near the end, but not entirely.

The tension flows right into Broken Verbs, and is finally released by the explosion of sound in the last half of the song. Guitars swell and pound the listener, the keys throb in the background, the drum machine thuds. And the voice sounds great. This is my favorite guitarwork on the disc -- really loud and all over the place.

Finally, Isobella wrap up their second album with a slow and mournful number. Traces ebbs along slowly under Poinsette's sad voice and tingling guitar arpeggios. It's a nice effect, as the album fades out to backwards masked guitars and a little a cappella coda to the whole thing.


Yeah, i like this album alot. I actually got a promo copy of it in April from the band, and it was pretty much the soundtrack to my summer. I do have a few comments though.

The Isobella sound is based on whirling guitars and subdued keyboard melodies. There is a lot going on in the songs. I guess it's pretty typical of the "shoegazer" genre. Still, they write catchy melodies and do some lovely things with guitar sound textures: McLaughlin and Richardson play off of each other very well.

One difference between Akasha and A 24 Syllable Haiku lies in the production. Akasha was blurry, as if the recording studio could not capture the band because there was too much sound. Layers upon layers blended together and created a lovely moosh of noise. A 24 Syllable Haiku is cleaner and more precise. I really get the feeling that the band had a much better idea of what they wanted the output to sound like when they went into the studio this time. It's a very different effect, but not a bad one.

Another difference is the sterility of the programmed drums. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: i hate drum machines. That is, i hate it when a band uses a machine to replicate drumming that could easily be done by a human. At times it seems that i can't spit in an indie club without hitting an underemployed drummer, so there it no real excuse for not having one. No excuse, that is, unless you want to do other things with the rhythms in your band. Isobella's swirling guitar and keyboard sound could be well-accompanied by electronica style "drums". I am thinking of glitchy hits and wierd noises, not just 4/4 time on the snare featured here. I guess we will have to see where Isobella go with this.

I also think that Laura Poinsette's voice is worth mentioning. I mentioned how she sounds like Sinead at times, and i know how that will annoy some people. But again, this is the first album where she is the lead singer. Her voice is becoming more forceful and clearer as she becomes more confident in singing. And it's not unlistenable at any time. In fact, in general i would say that she has a good voice, and that it works well within the framework of Isobella's music. However, well, that Sinead thing might annoy some people -- so be warned! On the whole, i think that her vocals are good but still developing.

So i come back to what i said of Isobella after that first time i saw them: they are a young band with some great ideas and a lot of talent. They have given us a lovely album that is not as perfect as their first, but that shows a lot of promise.

Now, when am i gettting the next album?

Related Links:

Akasha, Isobella's first album.
Isobella live on 18.November.2000.
Isobella live on 2.April.2001.


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