It’s been a while since Del Bel made an indelible debut with Oneiric, but the time has only made the band’s self-titled effort that much stronger. “Cinematic” has always been the best way to describe the Toronto/Guelph band’s sound, and it’s even more pronounced. Tyler Belluz’s complex and sometimes downright creepy arrangements are augmented by the enigmatic lyrics of Lisa Conway.
Del Bel (the album) is full of melodies of foreboding. It always feels like something is just around the corner, from the creaking of guitars to the mournful wail of horns. “Firebox” is a good example of how the band increases the pressure, and Conway’s lyrics make it apparent, with a driving bass rhythm and opening lyrics that seem self-evident, but are expertly effective: “In the boiler/Heat is building.” And heat does build.
Other times, Del Bel is content to build a film-noir atmosphere, like the powerhouse opener “In My Solitude.” Simple guitar plucking opens up a gorgeously-delivered song that’s sort of like a mirror—Conway sings two similar-but-not-quite sets of lyrics, with the second “repetition” suggesting something is seriously amiss.
“Intermezzo” is a long instrumental number that sets a very specific (and terrifying) tone, done as expertly as Timber Timbre’s frequent musical interludes. This song features a flurry of sounds, from staccato plucked strings to the eventual buildup of a range of instruments. “Old Magic” again plays with arrangements, with simple guitar and bass starting off but quickly descending into a big wall of loud drums and horns. It hands-down features the creepiest lines of the album: “That old worm’s got a big, big mouth and I know he’d like to eat ya/Dig you a hole in the family plot, I bet they’d all love to meet ya.”
“The Stallion” stands out thanks to its comprehensive storytelling; Conway sings of a family whose trade is murder, and follows them as they steal a horse and are pursued by ranchers and lawmen. The horns especially set the mood as the chase becomes a game of hide and seek.
The dark and jazzy album draws to a close with the appropriately-named “Epilogue,” which features a swell of mournful horns that brings the next chapter of the saga of Del Bel to a close. Few bands set as specific an atmosphere than Del Bel.
Del Bel will be released Feb. 10 on Missed Connection Records.
Top Tracks: “In My Solitude”; “The Stallion”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*