Although they play more than bells, the Oakland four-piece Bells Atlas more than live up to their name; their songs are atlases of sounds and styles, effortlessly blending elements of funk, West African polyrhythms and impressionistic guitar figures into a world all their own. Hyperlust, the group's new EP recorded at the Oakland studio Zoo Labs last summer and due out May 28, picks up the same global scope of their self-titled debut.
While many of Bells Atlas' previous songs sprawled into trance-like grooves, the four tracks on Hyperlust are tight-knit; the melodies are more concrete, the guitar figures more focused and Geneva Harrison’s drums, often distorted and modulated, crash and punch with newfound gale-force strength. On “Future Bones,” singer Sandra Lawson-Ndu rides a spiky wave of echo-y thuds, clacking sticks and guitar jabs, while “Mess It Up” lingers under a tranquil foil of shimmering synthesizer before blasting off into a glorious mess.
Bells Atlas plays the New Parish this Friday with fellow Bay Area powerhouse ensemble the Seshen -- whose bassist Aki Ehara co-produced "Bling" -- and the equally-captivating Zakiya Harris feat. Elephantine. When asked what makes the show special, Lawson-Ndu excitedly points out that it’s “led by all black women" -- and what better way to come home after a long break playing the Oakland venue?
Listen to Bells Atlas discuss “Bling,” above, and be sure to catch them at the New Parish on May 8.