Bells Atlas
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Bells Atlas

Oakland, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Oakland, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Pop Soul

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Jun
26
Bells Atlas @ Yerba Buena Night Festival

San Francisco, California, United States

San Francisco, California, United States

Apr
01
Bells Atlas @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall

San Francisco, California, United States

San Francisco, California, United States

Mar
14
Bells Atlas @ Rickshaw Stop

San Francisco, California, United States

San Francisco, California, United States

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


Bells Atlas is a project that sees afrobeat roots soaked up with soul and hip-hop influences. Coming from Oakland, California, the collective is breathing some life into indie-soul music. Although they are led by Nigerian-American vocalist Sandra Lawson-Ndu, the music sounds like a collaborative affair. Hypnotic vocal loops synch up with intricate percussion patterns. It’s pretty easy to get lost in the group’s newest track, “Kazoo.” Lush harmonies fill your ears immediately. While there’s a clear jazz inspiration behind the band’s phrasing and melodies, their groove is anything but ordinary. Be sure to check out Bells Atlas’ self-produced and self-titled debut full length album over at bandcamp. Stream their single “Kazoo” below. - okayplayer


The EP is often the best distillation of an artist’s/group’s early material. There’s no room for the extraneous or sub-par. If not excised, there’s no place for the lame to hide. For groups that go with the LP the first time out, the skip button is usually hit, and you wonder why they didn’t leave the filler on the cutting room floor. Not Bells Atlas, a group committed to perfecting the short, “all killer, no filler” EP format.
The quartet from Oakland released a few demo tracks back in early January, which were good sketches (“Kazoo” especially). In February they released their first single, “Video Star,” on Giles Peterson Worldwide, and appeared on a Kid A covers project, putting an upbeat spin on “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” This past March, with the official release of their self-titled EP, they’ve refined and reworked some of those demos and have come into their own.
Comprised of three original tracks and two remixes, it’s about as short as an EP can get, and probably just as good. They’re somewhere between Badu and Bonobo’s live recordings. Self-described as Afro-Pop/Soul, their influences seem pulled from everywhere. With their use of the loop pedal, one might even go so far as to call them the Afro-Pop/Soul analog to the tUnE-yArDs. And though I mentioned Badu, Lawson-Ndu is no imitator. Her smooth and breathy, sometimes whispering, vocals stand on their own.
The aforementioned first single, “Video Star,” is among the best, though it’s admittedly difficult to decide which track I like the most. On one level, it’s a satire on the Youtube viral sensation craze that’s given us Psy and Carly Rae Jepsen. Conversely, it’s a lament that new artists must conform to the Internet hype vehicles. The best lyrics are the most conflicted, “No other game is like this/ We’re not willing to leave it alone.” It doesn’t get much more pointed (or poignant) than that.
“Incessant Noise” and “Loving You Down,” the other two original cuts on the EP, are also worth your time. The former is Lawson-Ndu’s best overdubbing of her vocals, and the drums of the latter hit harder than Bay wind. With respect to the remixes, Bendaur of Hiatus Kaiyote (check them out) and Aki Ehara of The Seshen handle them deftly, retaining the soul of the originals while making the tracks their own. If you only have time for one of two, I’d say check the electronic/IDM take on “Video Star.”
If their full-length album—supposedly dropping June 15th—capitalizes on the promise displayed here, Bells Atlas should be worth the space on your hard drive. - Passion of the Weiss


Hear what all the "Incessant Noise" is about surrounding Oakland, California's Bells Atlas as they prepare to release their self-titled on June 18. Like the title of their featured song indicates, sound blossoms and grows everywhere in ways that could carry on eternally as Nigerian-American band leader-songwriter, Sandra Lawson-Ndu takes her vocal and stylings everywhere she wants it to go with a little help from comrades, Derek Barber, Geneva Harrison, and Doug Stuart. A group that moves in all directions, no two-bit adjectives can contain their infectious sound that draws influences from all corners and unexpected places the world over that could only spring in the natural light and mystic foggy air that the Bay Area provides. Catch Bells Atlas at their release show June 14 at Oakland's New Parish, check their Facebook for further details. We caught up with Doug to talk about their song "Incessant Noise" with frontwoman Sandra Lawson-Ndu describing the band's ethos of beauty.

"The track features sultry multi-layered vocals, Brazilian bateria-swells, West-African Highlife guitar riffs, and a coiling yet anchored bass line. As the song progresses, the narrator expresses a longing to control the chaotic nature of one's surroundings—how easy it is to become overwhelmed by life's worries. There's also an
acceptance taking place, however, as the singer expresses “I know, I know, I know”—life is full of noises that no one can ever really control."

"These moments are highlighted in the track when moments of dissonance are met with moments of amity: As singer/songwriter Sandra Lawson-Ndu describes Bells Atlas's ethos, 'We dive into and fully embrace sounds that are at first unusual to the ear but ultimately beautiful.” - Impose Magazine


"Who is the best local talent in your area?
....Toro y Moi and Tuneyards are two of the areas most well known bands of late, and their output clearly reflects the diversity and creativity of the Bay Area music scene. But be on the look out for up and comers Bells Atlas (above) who boast an infectious melding of soul, African music, post rock and jazz." - Gilles Peterson Worldwide


What's so good?
Listening to Bells Atlas’ debut single “Video Star” for the first time, I was taken aback by it’s exclusivity. Soon enough I became captivated by the uniquely graceful layering of music, emotion and lyrics, both as individual elements and in relation to one another. Their second single is no exception to the harmonious standard set by the group.

In “Loving You Down,” a heart bangs in alone before falling in rhythm with a percussive earth and connecting us to Mother Nature in her most alluring articulation. The sensations of raw affection, which resist logical description, undulate through the voice of Sandra Lawson-Ndu. She takes on the role of a woman at the end of her life, yet she replays memories of beauty, fear and pain from a past relationship, which certainly transcend age.

Looking back, the woman decides, “Let me repeat this day/let me do it my way/and don’t say that I’ve suffered this life, no,” finding some willpower to momentarily mask her vulnerability. However, the sadness remains palpable despite any musical notes trying to convince you otherwise; in the end, “her heartache is telling.”

After hearing both “Loving You Down” and “Video Star,” it seems Bells Atlas is fortunate enough to have reached an intriguing, admirable connection between the four of them. Other than lead vocalist Lawson-Ndu, the group includes bassist and vocalist Doug Stuart, guitarist and backup vocalist Derek Barber, and drummer and percussion lead Geneva Harrison. You can follow the band on Facebook or SoundCloud, and be the first to hear their surely impressive debut album, expected to drop this coming summer. - Indie Shuffle


Oakland's Afro-indie-pop quartet Bells Atlas released their debut EP this week and it's a beautiful beautiful thing. The band combines minimal beats with lush textures and the multi-layered vocals of lead singer Sandra Lawson-Ndu. The three songs and two remixes on the EP show a young band in complete control of their sound. With influences ranging from chillwave to samba to indie rock to Afrobeat, the Bells Atlas EP sounds like almost nothing else on the planet. It's rare that a band's debut is so bold and unique.

Opening track “Video Star” is a song about the struggle for authenticity. Beautiful and haunting Lawson-Ndu's voice glides over the syncopated blend of electric guitar and vibrophone. “Incessant Noise” loops and layers vocals above Geneva Harisson's rolling drums which perform the impressive feat of always seeming just about to lose the beat without ever doing so. Guitarist Derek Barber and bassist Doug Stewart take a more prominent role in the dance-pop single “Loving You Down.” But it says something about the tightness of Bells Atlas that each members' individual contributions drown in the beautiful incessant noise of the whole. The included remixes offer slightly different takes on “Loving You Down” and “Video Star” (the latter of which is remixed by Aki Ehara of the similarly undefinable The Seshen). “We found something special” Sandra Lawson-Ndu intones over the end of “Video Star.” Yeah, you definitely have. - AfroPunk


Here arrives a band on the scene with music in tow that is intelligent, diverse, and inspired. You can only parse out some influences—soul, R&B, samba, and the polyrhythms of West African music—but no one characteristic can define the sound in a way that does it justice. The only certainty is that, after listening to East Bay–based Bells Atlas, your ears will thank you for the experience.

Sandra Lawson-Ndu and Doug Stuart began collaborating musically in 2010. “Doug and I started working on songs together as more of a recording project,” Lawson-Ndu says, and their first performances as Bells Atlas featured only themselves: “Starting with just the two of us and a loop pedal, we were able to realize a handful of the songs on our own but were wanting to expand on that sound.”

As she explains, there is an exploratory quality to their composition and performance. By adding guitarist Derek Barber and Geneva Harrison on percussion, they were able to really explore new musical directions. Lawson-Ndu notes that Bells Atlas, as a collective, seeks out a sonic quality with its music that is difficult to pin down but unmistakable.

“As a band, we love challenging ourselves to tap into new sounds, grooves, textures, ways to inspire dance, and realms of emotion,” she says. “We dive into and fully embrace sounds that are at first unusual to the ear but ultimately beautiful.”

Nowhere is this quality more clear than in Bells Atlas’s initial three-song EP, on which each song vibrates with groove and intention. The infectiously repetitive melodies, the intricate and offbeat rhythm section, and the crafted contrast between bright, bouncy guitar riffs and the lyrical timbre of Lawson-Ndu’s vocals all combine to make music that is as danceable as it is contemplative. The songs are pulsing with energy, rich with textured builds and complex layering. The collaborative spirit evidenced in the group’s cohesive arrangements really reflects a band that is interested in drawing music out of symmetry.

Bells Atlas has quickly been embraced by the Bay Area music scene. A packed-house show at Amnesia Bar comes to mind, where a sweaty, danced-out audience was rife with whispers about the new mystery band. Lawson-Ndu notes how collaboration within the musical community, and the growing force of East Bay artistic culture, has positively effected Bells Atlas:

“As a band, just from seeking out new groups to play with, I feel as if we have only just begun to unfold some of the diverse pockets of music in the Bay. There’s a great camaraderie among the musicians making it all happen. Everyone cross-pollinates so much within the music community, and it makes the experience that much richer for everyone involved, whether you’re on the stage or in the audience, listening in. As our audience becomes more and more diverse, we get to see ourselves through the eyes of the varying communities here. There’s an infectious energy that is moving around Oakland, and we believe it’s really exciting and important to be a part of it in an active way.”

The band will be releasing a new single on Jan. 10, as well as a new album in the near future. Based on what has emerged so far, Bells Atlas promises to take us places we never knew we needed to go. - Asterisk Magazine


Discography

Bells Atlas EP
Bels Atlas LP

Photos

Bio

Bells Atlas emerges from the vibrant cultural and musical backdrop of Oakland, CA. Blending heavy percussion, soulful vocal harmonies, and thoughtful arrangements, this dynamic group has arrived at a sound that is uniquely their own. Raised on Rex Lawson recordings, Nigerian-American songwriter, Sandra Lawson-Ndu, fronts the group with enigmatic vocal stylings, live looping, and a unique sense of rhythm. Derek Barber, Geneva Harrison, and Doug Stuart complete the band's Afro-Indie-Soul sound by incorporating an eclectic range of influences including Highlife, Hip-Hop, Samba, R&B, Post Rock, and Indie Pop. Quickly drawing a wide audience with diverse tastes, they just finished their first full-length album, intent on providing their listeners with an experience that incessantly grabs the ear and evokes relentless body movement.

Live Video of "Video Star" in Miami, Fl-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuI_a75NZJ8
"Loving You Down" Official Music Video-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEswOqxU2t4

Band Members