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"Mainly Mute", Frode Rocords 2009
The songs "Spaceship, move slow!" and "Celestine" have been heavily playd on norwegian radio.



Here Today: The Timeliness of Bellman

From time to time, the everyday world of popular music carries with it the potential element to surprise us. This is a distinct trait of music’s timelessness as well as its lineage: Music is, after all, a bearer of history as well as a mouthpiece for our own experience. Mostly, it is perhaps no more than a soundtrack to our lives, something that makes a reassuring noise in the background. Sometimes, though, the music breaks through the barrier of the daily grind and reaches out to touch us directly.

The young Norwegian singer-songwriter Bellman is clearly one such artist: one who is able to let his music speak to us, in a voice which makes us sit up and pay attention. The music also reinforces the voice of Bellman himself. It is immediate, direct, to the point. Yet the singer is never drowned out by the music; he never gives way to simple solutions of musical trickery. And the voice suits the music elegantly.

Bellman’s music is the world turned inside out: fragile sounds are brought up front while the rock band is restrained, subdued. Elegant strings and glockenspiel are foregrounded. Distorted guitars form a solid, dynamic bedrock, but they also sound like a volcano which never erupts; they bubble beneath the surface, hinting at their potential rather than overstating it. The voice, rising from the cauldron of music, provides elements of surprise, running first forwards, then backwards, then forwards again. The studio offers a cornucopia of possibilities to any creative musician, and Bellman clearly knows how to use it.

You could describe it as post-rock, but there is clearly more to Bellman’s music than what’s in a label. It is both immediate and mediated. Like the British town criers of old, the ”bell-men” who carried and struck handbells to attract the people’s attention in order to communicate everything from market days to royal proclamations, Bellman may well be a mediator of music: His ideas are conceived and born in the intersection between the classical music of the intensely creative baroque era and the lavish pop music of The Beatles and The Beach Boys. If Bellman’s music is a child of its time, Bellman is a parent-artist who definitely knows his history.

The juxtaposition of chiming guitars and swelling strings gives further historical depth to Bellman’s sound. Sensible, attentive, indeed almost baroque at times, the string arrangements weave in and out of Bellman’s and his right-hand man Lars Klokkerhaug’s multi-layered band production. The acoustic strings and electric guitars interact effortlessly and are integrated into a seamless whole. A classical aesthetics meets the classy orchestral popular music of the ’60s: Chamber pop, if you will.

Yet the music never sounds solely retrospective. Bellman clearly knows his present-day popular music: The rich, crisp band sound is reminiscent of Mercury Rev – grandiose, yet still down-to-earth. Bellman’s dense layers of electric guitars easily make us think of Sigur Rós. The songs are driven by haunting melodies in the vein of songwriters like Damien Rice. Zeitgeist meets knowledge of history, and the result is as up-to-date as any of the above.

The voice, however, is the one ingredient in Bellman’s music that adds the taste of true originality. His voice is the most captivating of all: Bellman’s sweet, counter-tenor-like voice resembles Grant-Lee Philips fused with a subdued Antony Hegarty, or perhaps a mix of Sigur Rós’s Jónsi Birgisson and a more eloquent Thom Yorke. Naivistic, yet never naïve, the voice is always in its right place at just the right time. Restrained, yet endlessly uplifting, Bellman’s is the angelic voice of a singer-songwriter who has come into his own.

The sum total, then, is far more than just a child of its time. By way of explanation, Bellman’s music sounds almost as if the orchestral pop of The Beach Boys and The Moody Blues were to be inverted – fragile sounds backed by muted, massive rock – and spearheaded by an angelic, yet almost tangible voice. Dreamy, poetic and still speaking directly to us, Bellman is the music of tomorrow today.

- Jon Mikkel Ålvik nov, 08 -