Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: One Little Indian
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It’s the spry unpredictability of Olga Bell’s vocal melodies and the restlessness of her rhythms that put her a cut above your average avant-garde producer. A former child classical pianist, the Russian-American’s last album, Krai, was a musical exploration of the far-flung edges of her homeland through folk and avant-garde electronics. Here she returns to the immediate electropop of her debut Diamonite, but with more muscle and shadow.
Where Olga Bell's last album, ???? (Krai), offered an imaginary tour of her native Russia's hinterlands, Tempo represents a very different sort of ethnographical expedition: into contemporary club culture and '90s dance pop. In preparing for the album, the conservatory-educated musician made a habit of frequenting events like François Kevorkian's Sunday-night Deep Space parties at New York's Cielo club, where she would dance, Shazam, and, above all, listen closely to the inner workings of what she heard. (She made these research trips alone, she says, in order to avoid the distractions that would have accompanied going with friends.
What is it about Olga Bell’s fascination with memories and time? Her solo debut, ‘Krai’, was a journey back to her Russian past, blending sounds of regional folklore and avant garde electronica. The new record, ‘Tempo’, is another time-travelling adventure that plays like a sequel, continuing Bell’s rediscovery of her own real and imagined past. This time the memories invoked are closer to her new American home.
Expanding their lineup with a second drummer, Thee Oh Sees are allowed to stretch their sound and release one of their most cosmic, trippiest records yet. As opposed to preceding records, half of these songs are under the 5-minute mark (with one of those songs as an instrumental, anyway), and the title and placing of the third track, “Jammed Entrance,” shifts the album after two of the more song-oriented tracks. But that’s not a mark on “Dead Man’s Gun”, where Dwyer’s staccato vocals contrast with the guitar assault (with the “WOOH” war-cry preceding each one), or “Ticklish Warrior,” which is heavier: Dwyer’s vocals are a shout this time, and distortion drenches the march-like guitar riff.
“You've got all the answers/ But you're dancin' on your own” smirks Olga Bell on ‘Power User’, the opening track of her new album Tempo. If her previous release, Krai, was concerned with evoking regions of Russia dreamt up from the past, all folkloric melodies and choral arrangements bent and warped over sparse electronic beats, then Tempo is firmly rooted the kind of loneliness that comes from much closer to home. It is a world full of dimly-lit, pulsating New York nightclubs, where Bell went to dance alone in the lead-up to writing the album, revelling in both the isolation and freedom that comes from being in a room full of strangers.