The Lonely Bell: ‘Ghost Town Burning’ LP (2023)

The Lonely Bell is an introspective ambient artist from Scotland’s Isle of Lewis with releases like last years ‘Kingdoms of the Deep’ (Shady Ridge Records), and ‘The Broken Heart of Man’ (Somnimage), receiving extremely positive responses from audiences and critics alike in addition to ample airplay. Blackjack Illuminist is releasing their new album digitally and on limited edition cassette & CD. It’s composed of two tracks that are both around twenty minutes long and made mostly with guitars, synths, and field recordings. Greg Nunn (Glacial Anatomy / Ammothea) provided the artwork, which truly captures the albums sensibilities.

The hushed title track is a murkily gigantic and slow-crawling crescendo. I hear swaying and lulling movements like someone indecisively tottering on a fence. Another image that comes to mind is of an isolated spacecraft traversing through the dark reaches of outermost space, and then I remember that Earth itself is a kind of alien vessel traversing through space. Perhaps Earth, suspended and floating helplessly, is in some real sense a ghost town…A ghost town burning. Eleven minutes in and there comes the quietly aching timbre of a horn, which is continually answered by the sombre hums of a vocal bass. Overlaid on these quiet repetitions is an atonal vacuum like wind from which, at least in the way that I imagine it, it’s impossible to distinguish whether or not the other sounds are emanating out of or being pulled into this vacuum. A warm flute unhurriedly moseys its way into prominence after the fifteen minute mark.

‘Then The Snow…’ quickly accumulates a thick texture from which the subtlest, to the point of indiscernible, droning melodies may be heard as layers upon layers gently wend their perfectly balanced and blended way over and above and through and in-between one another. Early on there’s a repeated note with a violin-tone that lovingly breathes underneath the enormity that is the weight of the sound-wall in which it finds itself – my mind envisions this violin as a human surrounded and awed by the ancient endurance and strength of the natural world: sprawling mountain ranges, snow-capped and freezing, unwilling to suffer the noise of anything but their own eternally immovable silence. Mountains: bending on knee to none; undisputed masters of themselves. Again nearer the end, as in the title track, there is what sounds like the voice of someone lost in a landscape of staggering grandeur; a voice calling out above the densely woven, smoothly elongated, and softly rolling textures.

The Lonely Bell

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