Release Date: Mar 12, 2013
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Reggae, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, International, African Traditions, Afro-Pop, Reggae-Pop
Chicago’s music scene has a close relationship to the streets. Whether a young, fearless MC freestyles about his neighborhood’s stories, or a trance inflicting, house DJ sets the dance floor on fire, Chicago’s music language and imagination has always flirted with the ways of the streets. Not Wild Belle. They hail from Chicago, but their young sound, still trying to find its own identity and texture, seems to come from a Caribbean plateau with synth-fed parties and smoky looks.
Wild Belle's 2013 debut album, Isles, features the band's catchy, laid-back mix of indie pop, reggae, and singer/songwriter soul. Centered around the brother and sister duo of Elliot and Natalie Bergman, the Chicago-based Wild Belle often utilize Elliot's funk and reggae leanings as the leader of the Afro-pop ensemble NOMO (with whom Natalie has also toured). However, with songs largely based around Natalie's love of soul and melodic '60s pop, Wild Belle have a less frenetic, if still hypnotically languid take on NOMO's world fusion sound.
Wild BelleIsles(Columbia)Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars On first listen, there isn’t much special about this brother-sister duo’s sunshine laced pop and reggae. But repeated spins reveal a sly artiness lurking beneath the surface that gradually becomes more obvious. Multi-instrumentalist Elliot Bergman paid his dues in the horn driven, under-the-radar world music/jazz/prog/funk/folk collective NOMO for six years, and you can trace some of this new project’s left of center sounds back to those more experimental times.
If y’all were lucky enough to “Shake what yo’ Mama gave ya” to Wild Belle’s “Keep You” when it swaggered into town last year like a stone fox, you’d be forgiven for drooling in anticipation of their debut album Isles. One of 2012’s most deliciously hot 45s, “Keep You” was as close as pop gets to bottled sunshine. Dispatched by the Gods for crazy, hazy evenings “Sur la plage” it shook a hedonistic ‘n’ heady cocktail of drawl ‘n’ sass, hypnotically swaying hips, bee-stung cherry lips and the unmistakably mischievous wink that could only spell “T-R-O-U-B-L-E”.
Wild Belle are a fashion-crowd-lauded brother-sister duo from Chicago who now, as custom dictates, find themselves settled in Brooklyn. Happily, their music is less predictable than that geographical inevitability. Elliot Bergman, who makes his own kalimbas (African thumb pianos) provides dub- and reggae-inflected lilt, while Natalie, the younger sibling, cuts through those island rhythms with a voice that's both sharp and sweet and which, on the more soulful tracks, has that same appealingly ragged quality as Amy Winehouse.
On their debut as Wild Belle, Brooklyn-via-Chicago siblings Natalie and Elliot Bergman trot out a left-field trend, turning reggae into the next indie micro-genre sensation. Lauded by style blogs as much as the music press, the word trendy is hard to bypass. But rather than attention-grabbing trappings, the island flavor suits the natural talents of the siblings, the smoky vocals and bubbling rhythms flourishing in the climate.
Wild Belle brother and sister Chicago-based pairing Natalie and Elliot Bergman have been doing the promotional rounds in rather select places. Featuring in assorted fashion magazines, they both look wonderfully photogenic, especially when dressed up in Tory Burch and Burberry. They do moody very well and Elliot’s beard is impressively well kept. In one interview, coincidentally for American magazine and influential Andy Warhol creation, Interview, Natalie said their debut album Isles got its name “because each song is its own island, and each song has its own story”.
Just how wild are Wild Belle? Their home life sounds fairly normal – the brother-sister duo of Elliot and Natalie Bergman are two of four children born in Chicago to musician parents, who brought them up in a house full of jazz and James Brown. Elliot, who’s eight years older than Natalie and a multi-instrumentalist (yes, that’s him on the sax), started an Afrobeat band called Nomo while he was studying at the University of Michigan. After her 16th birthday, Natalie started performing with Nomo, playing tambourine and singing backing vocals.
Chicago siblings deliver an easy pleasure of a debut album. Matthew Horton 2013 New darlings of the style press, Wild Belle have a battle on their hands to prove themselves a band of substance. Debut album Isles finds Chicago-based brother and sister team Natalie and Elliot Bergman trying on every scrap of musical clothing strewn around the room in search of a signature look.
Call it the Taylor Swift effect: girl meets boy, boy breaks girl's heart, girl writes a million catchy songs about it. Chicago siblings Natalie and Elliot Bergman weave reggae influences into an indie rock ethos on a debut preoccupied with matters of the heart. "Keep You" embodies the tension, irresistibly seductive as Natalie purrs throatily with her honeyed timbre while cleverly tweaking feminine insecurities and addressing her inconstant lover as "little man." "Shine" finds the singer basking in the warmth of a summery confection, but "Twisted" shimmers as she reflects on material expressions of love such as fancy cars and diamond rings.
Hype, the fickle creator and destroyer of many a buzz band, is very well acquainted with the two Bergman siblings who form Wild Belle. In late-2011, their sparkling spectre of a song called ‘Keep You’ came out of nowhere and completely hypnotised the World Wide Indieweb. It was essentially off the strength of this one song that they managed to amass a huge swarm of buzz, secure a record deal with Columbia Records (Sony), and now, release their debut album, ‘Isles’, on said-label a year and a half later.