Swedish trio The Bell makes synth-pop with soul on second LP, 'Great Heat'

Swedish band The Bell is making music in a way that wasn’t even possible until fairly recently. The trio, split between Stockholm and the southern city of Malmo, made its second album by collaborating on digital files almost entirely over e-mail and Skype.

Though the press notes describe tantrums during the task of sequencing the record, everything seems to have worked out: “Great Heat” (out April 12 on Bad Man Recording Co.) is full of catchy synth-pop songs built around swaths of keyboards and guitars layered over the insistent rhythmic pitter of drum machines.

Singer Mathias Stromberg’s stentorian vocals evoke the golden era of post-punk, but that’s not all he can do: hazy vocal harmonies on opener “Whatever Did You Say” call to mind ’60s-style California pop, if the Mamas and the Papas had employed clattering electro beats. Elsewhere, shards of ringing guitar cut through somber keyboards on “Dope Makes You” (featuring guest vocals from Josefin Björck), and stacks of vocal harmonies vie for dominance with a massive, shuddering synthesizer sound on “Today.”

When every kid with a synthesizer and a laptop can make electro-pop records in his (or sometimes her) bedroom, it’s easy — and often justified — to whine about the dying art of analog and all that. The Bell demonstrates with “Great Heat” that it’s possible to make a digital record, remotely by digital means, without sacrificing that crucial element of soul.

Text by Eric R. Danton, photo and mp3s courtesy of Bad Man Recording Co.

Whatever Did You Say? mp3
Today mp3

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