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Bell orchestre finds new home

by Archives March 31, 2009

Montreal’s Bell Orchestre is hard to label. A six-piece collective that shares members with Arcade Fire and the Luyas, this instrumental band draws influences from post-rock and classical music.
They have just released their sophomore album, As Seen Through Windows, and are in the midst of a small Canadian tour, followed with some European dates.
The group recently found a new home at Arts & Crafts, an established Canadian indie label with a bulletproof roster of artists.
The musical arrangements, from song to song, are left open to interpretation.
“To me, it’s very easy to grasp, because it’s so melodic. There’s lots of melodies that will carry you through each song, and carry you though the record,” said French horn player, Pietro Amato.
Bell Orchestre recorded the album in many unique settings across the country. Ranging from the quant Eastern Townships, near Montreal, to the scenic mountains of Banff. It’s this wide-ranging approach, and their diverse musical influences, that makes for interesting listening.
“You can listen to it differently, like one person will listen to it differently than the next, and will draw different points of influence from the music,” Amato said. “[With] Bell Orchestre, we all have different musical influence and musical tastes, and we bring everything to the table when we’re making music.”
As Seen Through Windows, was produced by John McEntire, who has produced records for Chicago’s legendary instrumental post-rock outfit, Tortoise. Amato says they chose him because of his unique recording aesthetic. “We really like the textures and sounds he creates when he records music, we wanted this record to be sonically extreme,” he said. “We pushed him, we were like, ‘hey, more distorted, more compressed, more echo, more craziness!’ We tried to encourage him to not hold back.”
With a talented producer at the helm, the only other challenge was to get the six members together, on the same page. “It’s always hard to make decisions with six people in the band, and especially when everyone’s in different parts of the world. I had a lot of e-mails back and forth, for a while I had 25 e-mails a day,” said Amato. With a band that uses strings, bells, horns, drums, stethoscopes, typewriters, samples, and quiet noise, they manage to create a distinctive sonority, both exciting and intense.
Bell Orchestre is playing Sunday April 19, at La Tulipe. Amato remains elusive as to what we can expect. “Sometimes we decide a set-list like three minutes before going on stage, sometimes we decide a month in advance. We’ll definitely play a lot of the new songs, and then we’ll play a couple of old songs too.”

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