09 January 2008
CD review: Bela Karoli, Furnished Rooms
Double-posted at The Donnybrook Writing Academy
Bela Karoli is complicated simplicity, a paradox. But this is a band that makes songs out of Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot poems for goodness sake. So complicated simplicity makes a kind of perfect sense.
Furnished Rooms, Bela Karoli’s debut release, will make you pay attention and listen to familiar sounds like they were new.
In the first track, “Snow,” the rich and warm signature upright bass sound of Julie Davis is followed by the artful bow strokes of Carrie Beeder’s violin and then by the recognizable airy tones of Brigid McAuliffe’s accordion. The music is as inventive and playful as you might suspect with that admittedly unusual orchestration.
The sense of warmth and palpable life that reside in these twelve songs will make you feel the air passing through vocal cords, in and out of accordion bellows, bringing oxygen to blood pumping through arms that move bows, fingers that pluck strings. I could wax on in this vein but then paradox arises again. There in the background is a machined rhythm of programmed drum tracks. Like in the song “Invertebrate” where the lyrics, “we are soft cells; we have metal shells” suggest a duality, the songs themselves also feel as if existing as a cellular life of their own though encased in that hard and cold shell. It’s a compelling contrast, though I have to admit I miss the presence of a human drummer.
Bela Karoli is like nothing you’ve heard before. Not exactly. Like their version of “Summertime” you’ll recognize it as familiar, sort of, but it’s not an instantaneous recognition. Like no other, this is a furnished room you’ll find yourself glad to be sitting in.