It's been a few years since the Leaf Library released their acclaimed LP 'Daylight Versions' and the band have since been ensconced in the studio, losing themselves in their swirling sound world of lush and hypnotic pop music. On 'The World is A Bell' the London collective play gorgeously pastoral slow-moving songs that at various times recall Stereolab, Insides and Low. Gonna be a good one this so get on board.
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Much is made these days of the prolificacy of certain artists. People like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall seem to release a record every five days. Guided by Voices are on their 100th album of 2019. Bands like the Leaf Library however like to take their time and here is why.
You hear that wandering bass line on opener 'In Doors and Open Windows'? That doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of hours of improvisation and rehearsal in getting the exact right mood for the track. That complex drum beat on 'Hissing Waves'? The drummer didn’t just hit the first thing that came to him. That’s why in a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ society we need bands like the Leaf Library more than ever. Theirs is a slowly considered sound that unfurls itself into your brain and soundtracks your tired hours. It is a sound nestling somewhere at the midpoint between Pentangle and Bark Psychosis - a bucolic and watery rural backwater blending standard rock instrumentation with synths and horns and violins and the duel tight harmonising vocals of Kate Gibson and Melinda Bronstein.
Listen carefully and you can see where the Stereolab comparisons that are bandied about come from. The Leaf Library begin with the essence of a similar kind of kraut pop but stretch it out til it bends and snaps into pure ambience. On the title track they slowly bring together plucked sounds in a similar way to how XTC did on their magnificent 'River of Orchids', blending Philip Glass like stabs of neo-classical beauty. Is this more fractured sound too much of a move away from the stellar pop they play earlier in the record? I can’t decide but their more out-there compositions will certainly test the listener expecting a smooth surprise-free ride. They are perhaps at their very best on tracks like 'Hissing Waves' which builds ever so slowly adding in a gorgeous array of instruments and sounds not unlike a more acoustic cousin to Insides. 'An Endless' is also ridiculously good full of subtle electronics and washes of picked guitar with a beautiful kosmische-influenced coda that floats to a wonderfully affecting conclusion.
'The World Is A Bell' is an album which utilises light and shade to create a complex and occasionally experimental work but it spends a lot of its time creating soundscapes that seem to have the aim of providing a kind of healing. As listeners we need to do our bit and take our own time in listening because repeated plays will be rewarded. Ultimately this is the best kind of record that we can hope to hear in 2019 - one to completely immerse yourself in and shut out the ugly outside world.
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