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Shimmering, Warm and Bright

Bel Canto

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Album Review

Jenssen left before the recording of Shimmering to pursue his solo career as Biosphere; arguably he took some of the harder and darker edges of Bel Canto with him, but by no means all, and the band was not crippled as a result. The duo of Drecker and Johansen here create another bewitching array of songs with sources young and old, resulting in another exquisite fusion of modern technology with haunting touches from the past. The two strongest songs open and close the album respectively. "Unicorn," embracing low-key techno á la Ultramarine, but still dressed with the sparkling keyboards and lush orchestrations of previous releases, is perfectly lovely. Drecker's delivery infuses the almost fairy-tale lyric to lovely heights, building to an evocative conclusion. Even more soul-stirring is "Mornixuur," a slow growing ballad that eventually sweeps to an awesome climax, with Drecker in excelsis with the music. The remainder of the songs generally achieve the same quality of previous albums, though there's a more organic flow here and a touch less of the dramatic feel throughout. Drecker's voice is in utterly excellent form consistently, and if sometimes she sings lyrics that don't read that well on the page — "Waking Will" almost ends up like a psychoanalytic diagnosis on dreams — her vocals make everything sound perfectly bewitching nonetheless. The title track is an especially strong number, with another fairy-tale narrative supported by one of the most explicitly folky arrangements that Bel Canto has ever done. Mandolin and other acoustic instruments mix with both real and machine percussion sounds along with shades of post-punk Cure/Cocteau Twins guitar. Other standouts include "Spiderdust," a quietly intense tale of voodoo and passion, and the French-language "Le Temps Degage."

Biography

Formed: 1986 in Tromso, Norway

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '90s

The atmospheric, melancholy, somewhat medieval soundscapes of Bel Canto (Italian for "beautiful song") mix an essentially synth-based chamber rock sound with a wide range of orchestral and folk instruments and have been compared to the Cocteau Twins. The group hails from Norway and began as a trio consisting of ethereal vocalist Anneli Marian Drecker plus Nils Johansen and Geir Jenssen. The group has claimed to draw its inspiration from powerful energy fields, including those...
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Shimmering, Warm and Bright, Bel Canto
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