Bell Gardens
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Bell Gardens

Pico Rivera, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | INDIE

Pico Rivera, California, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2009
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"Bell Gardens: Full Sundown Assembly"

Bell Gardens is a collaboration between Kenneth James Gibson of Furry Things and Stars Of The Lid‘s Brian McBride, inspired by their respective backgrounds in experimental electronica and minimalist neo-classicism as well as a shared love of Phil Spector and the Beach Boys. Paying faithful homage to the latter, the duo eschewed bedroom production, computer software and synthesized sounds in favour of instruments and recording techniques that would have been available to their musical heroes in the ’60s and ’70s: piano, guitars, strings and horns, played live and recorded in a proper studio. The resulting album, Full Sundown Assembly, is an enchanting easy-listening/ country/ psych-folk/ dream-pop experience awash with regal orchestration and sweet, breathy harmonies; listen to the majestic “Through The Rain” below. - Foamhands


"Full Sundown Assembly....with rain"

Bell Gardens began with just two friends – Kenneth James Gibson (Furry Things, [a]pendics.shuffle) and Brian McBride (Stars Of The Lid) over many late nights talking and playing for each other the songs that have inspired them over the years. Citing influences such as Jack Nietzsche, Phil Spector, The Beach Boys and Dennis Wilson’s solo recordings, both musicians harboured a burning desire to traverse a pop sound that often belies their respective backgrounds in the fields of experimental electronic, techno and minimalist music.

Kenneth and Brian began to shape the Bell Gardens sound in early 2010. They felt a need to stay faithful to a time period in which songs that they had mutually revered had been recorded, and to capture what they believed to be a classic type of sound. They used mainly live instrumentation, thinking about what was available in studios from the 50s to the mid 70s. Software and synthesized sounds were rejected in favour of live recording of piano, strings and horns. Instruments were recorded specifically to preserve both room sounds and the natural sound of the instrument. If you were to ask Kenneth and Brian about the process of recording, they would probably say that the music they’re making in Bell Gardens is more “experimental” for them than their previous work.

For their first long-player, Full Sundown Assembly, the duo expand on their strange yet beautiful soundscapes, replacing the sparse compositions of some of their earliest efforts and filling space with immaculate arrangements of layered instrumentation, favouring piano melodies, horns, pedal steel and lush vocal harmonies.

The tone is set from the first notes of album opener ‘”Clinging To The Almost”, where tender dream pop merges with classic country pedal steel, evolving half way through into an eerie piano melody with harmonious vocals, all underpinned by a crackled fuzz. Such progressive tendencies continue throughout the album, each song sounding very different from the next; “Differently Tonight” is drenched in regal string and horn crescendos, whilst “Nowhere” and “Through The Rain” perfectly encapsulate their love for 60s folk psychedelia, especially in the breathy vocal harmonies. Full Sundown Assembly comes to a cinematic finish with “To Land”, as waves of breathtaking panoramic orchestrations wash over the haunting vocals and leave the listener with the flickering reverberations of the album’s timeless sounds.

Bell Gardens raison d’etre may have been to pay homage to classic sounds of times past, yet with this very simple intention, Brian McBride and Kenneth James Gibson have created an album which sounds more like a lost pop treasure, finally unearthed. Release date is 10th September.
The single Through The Rain, released on 6 August, is a perfect introduction to the lush world of sound that Bell Gardens have carefully crafted through the use of real instruments and classic recording techniques. It’s a bright, floaty burst of musical sunshine and sweet vocal harmonies, with a deeply embedded vein of mystery and wistfulness. The b-side of the single is a loping, steel-guitar infused interpretation of the late great Townes Van Zandt’s “Don’t Let The Sunshine Fool Ya”. - Aural Delights


"The Wire Reviews Full Sundown Assembly"

click on link for .jpeg - The Wire


"Mojo Reviews Full Sundown Assembly"

click for review .jpeg - Mojo Magazine


"Q Magazine Bell Gardens Full Sundown Assembly"

click link for review .jpeg - Q Magazine


"Review: Bell Gardens – Full Sundown Assembly (2013)"

In any good story, change is essential, and for that change to occur there has to be some level of discovery. Either a discovery in oneself, the people around them, the world we all share, or collectively in all three as they’re often unavoidably intertwined. That discovery can be difficult or easy, subtle or loud, for the best or for the worst, but I think we all can agree the journey always seems more profound when scored with beautifully fitting music.

Full Sundown Assembly very much plays out like a soundtrack, and discovery appears to be a central theme. Through their gorgeously vast, yet eloquently sparse chamber pop, Bell Gardens debut LP creates a world of visuals surrounding the cusp of discovery. Upon first listens, I couldn’t help but be reminded of “The Virgin Suicides,” “The Life Aquatic,” and the underrated “Wicker Park”—all films accompanied by terrific music. However, as a whole, Full Sundown Assembly doesn’t readily trigger recollection or memories for me. It’s a page-turner record, one that willingly creates images of new, uncharted territory, and that’s quite a refreshing facet.

When reading about Bell Gardens, The Beach Boys appear to always be mentioned somewhere. Yes, you can hear the influence, especially in the harmonies and percussion of album single “Through The Rain.” However, Bell Gardens incorporates so many other diverse arrangements and sounds from different eras that they are very much on their way to an unique identity that’s all their own. With that said, I feel Full Sundown Assembly is a surprisingly accessible album considering the hefty amounts of instrumental segments it incorporates. Of the album’s eight tracks, many of them have lengthy, but beautifully lush instrumental bridges. It’s the near perfect balance between vocals and instrumentals that make it work.

Full Sundown Assembly’s greatest strength is in its fluidity. From the atmospheric intro of “Clinging To The Almost” on through the string-arrangement closure of “To Land,” the album is effortlessly interconnected all the way through. That may seem like an obvious point but it’s by no means always the case. Much like scenes in a movie, the songs of Full Sundown Assembly appear to be most rewarding when rolled out in order, one after another. But if there is only time for a quick track, might I suggest the upbeat, tranquilly bouncy “Fruitcup.”

Bell Gardens began as a project between two friends, Kenneth James Gibson and Brian McBride. Both have years of experience working individually in their own musical ventures, but Bell Gardens offered them a chance to make something more experimental than either had previously explored before. The result is a fine finished product. Full Sundown Assembly is music profound enough to score a movie but also perfectly capable of accompanying the discoveries of everyday life, which may be smaller-scaled, but are no less significant. - Mezzic Blog


"Bell Gardens - Full Sundown Assembly (Album Review)"

Nowadays it is a few and far between when a true pop album will capture you with its deepest sincerity and sweetness, with its emotions and, more importantly, with its tunes. Long gone are most bands that made proper pop music an art. So it is as much of a shock to me as it is to you that Bell Gardens have turned up and unleashed a record of such genuine pop goodness that it threatens to knock The Beach Boys off my vinyl shelve. This is clever, articulate and brimmed with the sort of delightful musical refrain that doesn’t just make sense but makes birds sing and trees sway delicately in the wind.

To say that this record is just a pop album would be hugely misleading however. Anyone familiar with Brian McBride’s work in Stars of the Lid will not be surprised by the delicacy and beauty of the textures on this album, yet in this context they just add to the warm immediacy of this album. Tracks like 'Through the Rain' and 'South' may be all about the replay value but they are also all about the sweeping sonic palette that 'Full Sundown Assembly' makes incredible use of. Sitting on top, like the proverbial cherry, are the gorgeous, soothing vocals of Kenneth James Gibson.

Bearing some comparisons, in terms of tone if not particularly instrumentation, with last year’s superb 'Kaputt' by Destroyer, this debut Bell Gardens full-length may just be the closest the last decade has come to interesting and intriguing pop. In a world where the p word is often bandied around to refer to the latest manufactured crap coming off The X Factor, that may sound strange, but this is an album with such fantastic songs that the idea of someone sticking it on and not humming along within twenty minutes frankly seems incomprehensible, and yet is is often unconventional in its stylistic choices.

Indispensable.

'Full Sundown Assembly' is out on Monday via Southern Records.

If the last two sentences didn’t make you want to buy it then you are probably a cold hearted 70s prog fan from Coventry...or something.

Enjoy.


- Stereoboard


"Bell Gardens, "Full Sundown Assembly""

After a terrific debut EP in 2010, Bell Gardens finally return with a full album of mostly new music. As usual, the musical arrangements are lush and saturated with beauty as Brian McBride and Kenneth James Gibson try to recreate the moods and sounds of the golden era of pop studio recordings without using the typical computer-based short cuts and technological workarounds that have become de rigour for modern studio work. The end result is a triumph of song writing, musicianship and integrity, highlighting just how good humble songs can be without the need for following trends or to be striving to be the next big thing.

Despite the deliberate avoidance of software and samples, Bell Gardens manage to begin the album with a very modern sounding take on the classic pop song. Following some gorgeous slide guitar on "Clinging to the Almost," there is a sudden move into the sort of chord progressions that I would associate with Stars of the Lid or McBride’s solo work. Though Stars of the Lid never sounded like this; the movement and the atmospheres are social, joyous and bright unlike the introspective, contemplative twilight textures of Stars of the Lid. I thought they had nailed it on Hangups Need Company but they have upped their game considerably on Full Sundown Assembly.

The first couple of times I listened to "Differently Tonight" I felt that the lyrics, though performed perfectly, were a bit clumsy. Now, after becoming more comfortable with the album as a whole, I admit I feel differently. The lyrics are so simple that they seemed too obvious but I realize now that is what makes the song work so well. This deceptive simplicity runs throughout the rest of Full Sundown Assembly with songs like "Bobby" and "Nowhere" sounding like the best bits never recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or Brian Wilson.

The highlight of the album is "Through the Rain," which also featured on the duo’s Hangups Need Company EP from 2010. Here is the closest they come to sounding like The Beach Boys, the vocal harmonies are rich, layered but as light as they air they are made from. In fact, this is probably the best-crafted song I have heard in a long time as absolutely everything about it is balanced, tasteful and moving. It is a sheer delight to listen to and even though it has already been released, I will not argue with its inclusion here.

In recent years, Bon Ivor and Fleet Foxes have tried to capture this sort of vibe in their respective careers but Bell Gardens truly school them in how it should be done. McBride and Gibson have created stunning bursts of warm, joyous harmonies that, while indebted to great artists such as Phil Spector and Jack Nitzsche, burst with a life beyond retro pastiche. This is masterfully played pop music that references but expands on this nostalgia, much like Tindersticks did in the ‘90s with their take on Nancy and Lee, John Barry and Serge Gainsbourg (though Bell Gardens give the ‘sticks a run for their money on "South"). With Full Sundown Assembly, McBride and Gibson have created masterfully played pop music which is a much needed ray of sunshine on these dark autumn mornings. - Brainwashed


"Ears Wide Open: Bell Gardens"

Bell Gardens are drawing their own pretty pictures on the Wall of Sound. On their debut EP “Hangups Need Company,” the band — a collaboration between veteran L.A. musicians Kenneth James Gibson and Brian McBride — crafts meticulously layered psych-pop songs that sound like lost classics from the 1960s. The soaring vocals of “Through the Rain” cry Beach Boys, and their take on 1967’s “End of the World” darned near stops time. Bell Gardens expands to 10 or more members for its live show; their orchestral maneuvers are worth your trip back in time. - Buzz Bands LA - Kevin Bronson


"LA Weekly"

“It’s gorgeous, rapturous pop balladry with candy-coated Beach Boys falsettos and pre-afro-Phil Spector production. It’s weightless with gravitas. Gibson might be the techno flavor du jour, but this is the stuff that will mark his place. I found him.” - La Weekly


"Stereogum premiere's Darker Side OF Sunshine"

Where I’m from, Brian McBride is a soccer player, but a different Brian McBride has been responsible for a lot of great music over the years, most prominently the ambient drone duo Stars Of The Lid. In recent years McBride has been recording with Furry Things’ Kenneth James Gibson under the name Bell Gardens, and they’ll soon release their sophomore full-length Slow Dawns For Lost Conclusions. Opening track “Darker Side Of Sunshine” definitely sounds like its title. It’s a glorious bit of slowly emerging psych-Americana that makes me feel like dawn is breaking and so is my heart. Listen below, where you’ll also find a trailer for the new album. - Stereogum


"Take Us Away single review"

Essentially a twinning of furry things and stars of the lid types, bell gardens are shortly to release their second opus ‘slow dawns for lost conclusions’ for the adored rocket girl imprint with ‘take us away’ being given heralding duties to mark its arrival. What can we say – just sheer blissful joy, opens Donovan-ish a la ‘hurdy gurdy man’ before unfurling delicately amid tearful cascades of lip biting hymnal symphonic spirals that succulently bathe listening spaces in the immense caress of sighing seafaring overtures- those preferring reference markers ought to look no further than the hushed grandeur of soft hearted scientists for comparable classicism – alas no sound links as yet. - marklosingtoday


"Flipside reviews upcoming "Slow Dawns For Lost Conclusions""

Brian Eno, Mojave 3, Moby, This Mortal Coil, Pearls Before Swine, Spaceman 3 ....bloody hell. Six tear-duct tickling artists right there. To that small list (and many others) you should add Bell Gardens, an outfit that specialises in music bordering on the religious, the revelatory and the profoundly beautiful, so much so that you'll be needing a box of Kleenex, a bottle of your favourite liquor and a day off after listening to the band's triumphant second album.

Basically, Slow Dawn For Lost Conclusion may bear a title more fitting for a trippy '60s band indulging in dismissive psychedelia but, as an album, it offers much more. Finely-crafted and incredibly atmospheric, Bell Garden's oeuvre is sheer aural starlight that borders on the incredible quite often. I'll suggest you fast-forward to the peach - Take Us Away is a slow-paced honey of a song that sports weeping strings, an unobtrusive bassline and those harmonious vocals, all of which suggests a soundtrack to taking a balloon ride across the Grand Canyon or, at the very least, over the English Channel. One of those colourful Montgolfier balloons would do nicely.

There are many other highlights but to be fair, the album should be consumed as a whole experience rather than pointlessly extracting one or two songs for scrutiny. The fact that the superb closer Why Me Lord (a cover of Kris Kristofferson's elegiac hymn) has been selected as a digital-only bonus-track is both a travesty and a pointer to just how many great songs these chaps have stashed in their locker, and all from a collective previously responsible for just one further album and an EP - it's a compliment when I suggest they may have been around for decades. And if those six previously-mentioned artists mean anything at all, you'll probably 'get' Bell Gardens. A truly wonderful album. - Flipside


"Entertainment Weekly premiere's "She's Stuck In The Endless Loop Of Her Decline""

In their separate ventures, Stars of the Lid’s Brian McBride and Furry Things’s Kenneth James Gibson are heavily influenced by uncommercial styles like dub, minimal techno, and drone. Together, under the name Bell Gardens, they make music that they claim is “more of an experiment than [their] current ‘experimental’ projects,” but the pair are blessed with pop sensibilities that they can’t seem to repress.

“She’s Stuck In the Endless Loop of Her Decline,” from their upcoming LP Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions (out Oct. 28), has enough delicate sonic textures to satisfy their more avant-garde-inclined fans wrapped around an unhurried, tuneful folk melody that you don’t need to know what “minimal techno” even means in order to enjoy. - Entertainment Weekly


Discography

Full Sundown Assembly LP, CD - Southern Records (2013)

Full Sundown Assembly cassette - Burger Records (2013)

Through The Rain 7" - Southern Records (2012)

The Kitty (VA) Compilation - Burger Records (2012)

International Connection Collection Compilation - Dublab (2011)

Hangups Need Company cassette - Burger Records (2011)

Hangups Need Company EP - Failed Better Records (2010)

Photos

Bio

Bell Gardens combines the musical visions of Kenneth James Gibson
(formerly of Furry Things, now recording as [a]pendics.shuffle, dubLoner
and Eight Frozen Modules) and Brian McBride (one half of Stars of the
Lid) and began releasing music in 2010, beginning with an EP, Hangups
Need Company on their own imprint Failed Better.

Their debut album Full Sundown Assembly (Southern / Burger Records) appeared
in 2012 and, now signed to Rocket Girl in the UK, the band are set to
release their second, Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions, in October 2014.


Bell Gardens’ origins began arguably as more of an experiment than the
duo’s current ‘experimental’ projects – McBride’s drone- and
string-laden ambient symphonies, and Gibson’s ventures in dub and
minimalist techno – as they sought to manifest their mutual reverence
for folk, psychedelia and chamber pop in a traditional band structure
without cannibalising any particular past genre. Bell Gardens’ sound is
less reliant on effects and studio trickery than the pairs’ independent
guises, laying bare as it does vocals and live instruments with
emotional sincerity, and presenting songs imbued with an almost pastoral
or gospel simplicity and timelessness.

Band Members