Up & Out There: Bell

Post Author:

[Above: Photo by Alix Winsby]

Bell, “Echinicia”, live on Fair Game

Enjoyed, the Stereogum tribute to Bjork's POST, is a a smörgåsbord of smörgåsmic smörgåcity, and not even just for Bjork fans — there's a flexibility to Post that was more than a bit lacking in their R.E.M. tribute (because who would be caught dead covering R.E.M. in public? I wouldn't even sing it in the shower). But just look at the list of artists for Enjoyed: Atlas Sound, High Places, Evangelicals, Xiu Xiu, Final Fantasy, Dirty P's, etc.

Which brings us to Brooklyn's own Olga Bell, newcomer and obvious choice even alongside such heavyweights. She first got noticed for a version of Radiohead's “Videotape”, shortening the gap between a song's official release and a successful cover to a matter of weeks. Her version is sparse, nothing but her, a piano and a set drum, and though her voice isn't extremely strong she manages to carry it.

That's probably the strange thing about Bell. On her hand-crafted EP (now available online for $5) there are moments where her voice clearly isn't strong enough to attempt what she's doing. And yet, it's almost good enough. So we listen anyway. Like we're listening to what she could be instead of what she actually is. Her voice is a Time Warp. To the Future.

“Echinacea”, off the same EP, has been rightfully described as a bit of a Bjork ripoff, and it makes sense that her voice is most convincing when she's aping someone else (it kind of trails off towards the end). Of course, a lot of people over the years have been described as sounding like Bjork, usually trailing off into obscurity shortly afterwards if they can't shake the description. Which is kind of unfair, since Bjork's sound isn't completely unique. At least it can't be, if all these people sound like her. (Short side note: one of my favorite artists ever, Bloem de Ligny, who most recently recorded in Polichinelle, could never get a foothold in the states because of the Bjork comparisons. She's from the Netherlands, so maybe it's just northern European girls.)

Bell hails ultimately from Russia, and the live version of “Echinacea” sounds less like Bjork, so maybe the Bjorkistry is a production element. Anyway, she's on Stereogum performing the coveted “It's Oh So Quiet”, and it's worth a listen or two. The whole thing is.

We'll be waiting for a full album from her, whenever she gets around to it.

She recently played two dates in New York, after sweating through SXSW.

Bell – “Chunk” live at SXSW