Baltimore’s Nathan Bell and David Heumann are best known for their work in Chesapeake-area acts like Lungfish and Arbouretum (respectively), as well as their contributions to other artist’s solo projects, such as Miighty Flashlight and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (respectively). But as the twin-headed Human Bell, they craft guitar-duet post-rock that would haunt the ancients – and today.
Unfortunately, Human Bell opens with probably two of its weakest pieces, “A Change in Fortunes” and “Splendor and Concealment”. There’s nothing wrong with the high guitar and twinkling keys of “Change”; it flows well, but lacks staying power. Meanwhile, the darker “Splendor” takes forever to get going, but once it does, the country-time road vibe certainly works. However, it’s “Hymn Amerika” that really takes that ‘haunted Americana’ flag and runs with it, driving down abandoned highways. The softer “Hanging From the Rafters” grows into something bigger, the decrepit old farmhouse of the empty Great Plains that hasn’t seen a family in ages.
But there’s also a timeless quality to Human Bell. “Ephaphatha (Be Opened)” takes its name from an Aramaic saying, in the language of Jesus and The Passion of the Christ, but similar to Mel Gibson’s movie, the epic piece suffers from too much ambition. Stronger is “Outposts of Oblivion”, whose sparse effect grows to an echoing tragedy, before breaking down again in the middle, into an elegy. “The Singing Trees” delivers a nice change-up to finish things off, with the guitars more rock, more fuzz, in a post-rock procession.
Wordless music must never lack for artistry or ambition, and Bell & Heumann miss neither on Human Bell. There might be a bit too much at times, but few dare to take on as much as these two.
MP3 Stream: "Hymn Amerika"