Damn if instrumental post-rock groups don’t have the goofiest album titles in the business. For a genre aching to be dubbed the modern answer to classical music, these guys sure have a tough time coming up with titles you can take seriously. I mean, who could forget such party-time excellence as Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord Is Dead, Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada, and, of course, Peng!? Sure, Bell Orchestre’s Recording a Tape the Color of the Light may not sport quite as over-the-top a title as the semantic acid-trips cited above, but it compensates by actually containing music you will enjoy. For the most part, instrumental post-rock is built upon the well-known “five-d’s” of inaccessibility: dissonance, disjointedness, din, dyspepsia, and really lame music—if “really” began with a “d.” But Bell Orchestre wisely eschews most of the above and crafts a smooth listening experience by maintaining a solid melodic line atop the polytonality. Maybe it helps to have something you can actually hum along to. Also aiding the effort is the quality musicianship of the ensemble, whose members include Richard Parry and Sarah Neufield of the Arcade Fire. Another major advantage that the group enjoys over most post-rock bands is that it doesn’t take the Wagnerian approach to song length. Most tracks clock in at under five minutes and won’t require holding down the fast-forward button until you get to “the good part.” Now, the first third or so of Recording a Tape lags a bit, mostly because Bell Orchestre seems reluctant to show all its cards right out of the jewel case. However, once you reach “THROW IT ON A FIRE,” the horns and percussion begin to drive, and the album grows progressively stronger. In particular, “the bells play the band” and “recording a tunnel (the invisible bells)” are quietly powerful tracks, benefiting from Bell Orchestre’s tight musical focus. There are few complaints to be made—as far as instrumental post-rock is concerned, that is. But, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m definitely of the opinion that instrumental post-rock isn’t for everyone. If you know you like the genre, then I guarantee you’ll be pleased with this stand-out exemplar; if not, you’d better familiarize yourself before you drop your 15 bucks.
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