Band To Watch

Band To Watch: Bell

Bell is New York-based Olga Bell and friends. Bell does the singing, some of the samples, clapping, keyboards, and wields a laptop. She’s joined by a three-piece band, consisting of drummer Jason Nazary, bassist Mike Chiavaro, and guitarist Grey McMurray. That said, the project uses her last name as its moniker for a reason: The main focus is her strong, assured, at times Björkian voice and the often quirky ways she uses it. To date she’s been best known for her montage of Radiohead’s “Videotape” and Tom Yorke’s “Eraser” (listen, here) but with her six song EP about to see the shift from the hand-decorated CD-R she sent us to an official, more widely available pressing, that should change.

Bell was born in Moscow in 1983 and moved to Alaska in 1990. About her earlier childhood she told us, “When I was growing up in the USSR we only got bananas once every six months. No joke … you had to eat them reeeeeally slowly. Also, I remember the first McDonald’s opening up when I was about four, waiting in line with my mother for two hours to get a tiny filet-o-fish. mmm … bananafish.” (We always enjoy a good J. D. Salinger reference, Olga.) She played classical piano from 7-17, graduating from the New England Conservatory in Boston when she was 21. At that point, she moved to New York and, in her words, “bought a laptop.” That vastness of experience and good humor of her responses is present in her music, which is windswept and ambitious, but intensely personalized and spare (despite the layers of clean, sharp production). Take a listen, for example, to the lead-off track, “Echinacea,” a re-recording of a song that’s been floating around a while.

Bell – “Echinacea” (MP3)

See, there’s that laptop she bought. Across the EP, no two songs fit the same mold — “Housefire” is a dramatic flurry with moments of spare My Brightest Diamond sparkles; excellent standout “The Miner” overlaps live percussion, skittering ‘n’ smoky electronics, and dusty noisiness as Bell sings about suffocation and an Alice In Wonderland swallowing of glass and gold: “And with this glass I can’t grow old / Because it doubles me in size.”

Sticking to her DIY approach, Bell’s putting out the new version of the EP herself. You can order it at her site. She tells us it should be available mid-April, though in the meantime, you can hear more at her MySpace. And, if you’re in the NYC area, you can catch Bell live this Friday:

03/28 – New York, NY @ The Delancey w/ Claymation Velociraptor, Pocketknife, and the Bloodsugars

Here’s the poster she made for it.

Tags: Bell, Olga Bell