On the Outside Looking in
Comprising musicians who've been in and around bands for years locally in their home county of Gloucestershire, nationally and internationally, Bell Jar first got together in the autumn of 1998. Since then, having only gigged occasionally, they have reclusively recorded, produced and released three albums. The first, 'Secret Volcanoes', was a homegrown record representing two weekend's worth of playing live to tape and about a day of mixing at the FFG studios in Bredon, near their Cheltenham hometown. Released in 1999, the results were enigmatic and engaging. The second album was released on the MADAN label. Entitled 'On the Outside Looking In', it was recorded at FFG, in their homes, and then mixed at The Magic Garden Studios in Wolverhampton. This 2001 release saw a maturing of the distinctive and often dark groove that had become the Bell Jar sound. And in the summer of 2003 the band released it's third album, 'Nightlight'. Recorded at FFG studios in Gloucestershire, the album represents Bell Jar at their strongest. Understated yet powerful, immediate but not crass, Nightlight demonstrates a quiet confidence and a sublime simplicity that is irresistible. The band has loads of 'been there, done that' stories they could tell - like working at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios, playing the Glastonbury Festival in years gone by, recording in Los Angeles during the 1995 quake and touring throughout Europe - and that's just the drummer! But they wouldn't want to bore you with all that rock 'n' roll bull. They'd rather let the music speak for itself. Think Nick Cave. Think The Ben Folds Five. Think Gomez. Think Elbow. And then unthink all that, as Bell go all gospel-groove on you. There's no telling what might be next from this wonderfully eclectic outfit. Mellow, mature, at times morose, but always melodic - you name it, and, if it begins with 'm' Bell Jar can hum it. Funky Wurlitzer conspires with tremelo and acoustic guitars, hypnotic looped bass lines and solid groove drum tracks to produce a vibe that is intimate but not intricate. Rehearsing for years in a suburban garage with next-to-no amplification, the band relishes the chance to plug in and turn it up. Equally, they are at their most intimate and natural when stripped back to the bare bones. Together now for nearly 10 years now, Bell Jar are undoubtedly at the height of their organic, rootsy, authentic, lo-fi and groovesome powers.