Thursday, August 23, 2012

CD release

We're happy to announce that we have released our CD, let the waves carry us, which also includes a bonus disc of 12 remixes.  It is available through mine all mine records or through our bandcamp site.



We're thrilled with the way it turned out.  Thanks to all the remixers and also to our friends, The Weather Duo and Trevor Saint, who contributed to the album.  

The remix CD includes tracks by shawn kenneth pierce, olivier girouard, gregory taylor, contemplating cogitation, mark snyder, tando, henry vega, brian grimmer, matt hund, erik deluca, and randall luecke.

Purchase the CD or download the digital copy here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

double CD and kickstarter campaign



We're delighted to announce the forthcoming double-CD release, "let the waves carry us", which is being funded through a Kickstarter campaign:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/266611053/bell-monks-double-cd-project

The campaign features a ton of great rewards, ranging from just $5 for digital download of the release up to $100 for bell monks to cover any song of your choice!

This CD is the culmination of our year-long recording project, for which we recorded 2 songs a month throughout 2011 as a sort of challenge to ourselves both to produce a ton of music and also to try different recording ideas, equipment, and approaches to writing.

As the year ended, we contacted some friends to remix their favorites, and we were able to get some great musicians to work on them, among them Dutch-based composer and electronic musician Henry Vega, Cycling 74's Gregory Taylor, environmental sound artist Erik DeLuca, and festival organizer and all around crazy character Mark Snyder, among others.  The results have been pretty great.

In the coming days, we'll be posting some sample remixes along with pictures and more info about the campaign.  The campaign runs through June 24 at 6 PM (Central Time in US).  The CD is only pressed if the campaign is successful, so we're hoping to have a great run!

thanks for your support
 - jeff

Saturday, March 17, 2012

revisiting 4 - april 2011


Our April package was the last one for which we had any semblance of a sketch before the year started.  Eric had created the main guitar and verse vocal idea for "your eyes were filled with violence", which I fleshed out into the final form over an intense few days in the middle of April.  The whole thing came together for me once I added the 'tron part to the end section - I was really vibing on Italian prog glory while working on it.

Throughout the year, Eric and I always operated near the edge of what we could get done in an month, but these challenges were exacerbated in April by the length of the song.  Long songs just take longer to put together.  Same for songs with lots and lots of vocals or lots and lots of layers.  Additional time and/or layers increased effort geometrically.  This seems obvious, I suppose, but it was still amazing for us to experience it.  It wasn't just time additional spent on the mix, though of course more layers mean more EQ, more cleaning and carving, more finding space in the mix, and more time spent on balance.  It was also in figuring out the form, and sometimes just more time recording all of the parts.  Especially with atypical structures, I felt like I had to listen to the whole song each time to see if the spacing worked, and the more my memory seemed to fuck with my perception of the whole thing.

In contrast, we created the April 15 track, "outer darkness", in one day and mixed it the next.  One of our biggest inspirations has always been the band Sebadoh, especially their first album Weed Forestin', which includes a bunch of short, lo-fi snippets of songs that always felt perfect in their simplicity.  With "outer darkness", I feel we've finally created a song that showed that influence.  The percussion sounds were created by scratching the carpet next to a close-mic, though we did use a U87 to record it.  Interestingly, I just discovered that Weed Forestin' was just re-released on vinyl.   Check out the recent Pitchfork review of this classic album, which includes the tune 'temporary dream':

Sunday, February 26, 2012

revisiting 3 - march 2011

Our March 2011 tune, "hours are seconds", used Paul McCartney's 1971 song "Ram On" as a model. I had been listening to McCartney's album, Ram, and loved how simple that song was. Not surprisingly, the tune has this great singability, with a lovely giant melodic leap in the middle of the phrase on the word "soon", which ends up kind of high in his tessitura, and he holds it a long time to give more emphasis to the word. Then the line dies out with a repeat of the last words "right away." After a little instrumental turnabout, the whole phrase repeats a few more times.

Using "Ram On" as a reference point, I set about trying to create a monks tune. I don't think our song really sounds much like McCartney's, but if you listen to the melodic approach to the verse it's in there, with some similar chords and melodic contour, and even a little tag at the end of the verse that's reminiscent of "right away". At our behest, Heidi wrote the lyrics for "hours are seconds", replacing the lyrics in my demo. I like Heidi's lyrics, as she thinks about things very differently (and more poetically) than I do. But it was also eye-opening to experience the effect it had on the song, as some of the lyrical patterning that I had based on the emotional impact of the McCartney tune was changed to fit these new words that didn't bear any relation.



Not that Paul McCartney needs the additional business, but you can pick up Ram here if you'd like to check out the whole album: http://www.amazon.com/Ram-Paul-Mccartney/dp/B000002UC7

Friday, February 3, 2012

revisiting 2 - february

"east of the lake", our 02/11 february tune, ended up being one of our best 2011 songs to perform live - the others are probably "outer darkness" and "waiting for you to return". It's funny how some songs immediately come together with the band while others never work after loads of effort. We often have problems with live translations of these songs because they have so many layers, but sometimes they just work anyway, while others don't. I've given up trying to predict it.

This was a fun video to shoot with Anna, traipsing around in the cold frozen marshes at the back of my university campus.  Most of our videos don't include us in them (in fact only two of them do), but I think the addition of a person added a nice touch to this one. Of course, since we had to get up at an absurd hour to shoot it, I certainly hope it was worth the effort! that's me walking around at the end of the video:   http://vimeo.com/21089006

I had a pretty complete demo of "east of the lake" when we started the month, so we created "across gelid waters" in inverse process to how we'd created "adrift in white" in January, with Eric coming up with guitar parts that fit over top of my demo.  Then we separated out those guitar parts and turned them into their own song. The "ahhs" that got added to this always made me think of the vocal parts in this Ulver tune "Eitttlane", from one of my favorite quirky albums of theirs "A Quick Fix of Melancholy".


You can read more about ulver here: http://www.jester-records.com/ulver/ulver.html

Sunday, January 22, 2012

revisiting

We're taking a break after last year's monthly package project, though we'll have an announcement about a remix album soon.

In the meantime, we thought we would provide some context for some of the tunes from last year - what inspired us, what we thought was interesting, etc., through a series of posts with little stories from the year.

01/11 january:
Although 'adrift in white' is not a typical bell monks song (if such exists), it was important to us as the first preview track of the year, as our approach to the song provided a template for how we could relate the tunes in the 2-track "packages" to one another.  In this case, I created the primary sound for 'adrift in white' by improvising a mellotron part over the top of Eric's guitar demo for 'cold winds' and then removed the guitar.  We then formed a new song around the synth that remained.  Most of the packages throughout the year have some sort of similar relationship, though it's not always quite so direct.  Here is a short sample of the mellotron improvisation over top of Eric's demo:


'adrift in white' features mellotron as the primary keyboard sound. We'd never used mellotron before with the monks, but I don't think we went a month without using it for the rest of the year. Whenever it felt like the tune needed a little boost, I usually tried adding more tron - it became a joke of sorts between Eric and me throughout the rest of the year. Of course we don't own a real mellotron, which would be lovely but likely a giant pain the ass to keep together - these are all Reason samples ("digital" tape loops). Someday, perhaps.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Get Well Songs

Our tune "blue lights" is included on a new compilation put out by The Oleum Fold label called "Get Well Songs".  Proceeds will benefit Child's Play charity, which seeks to improve the lives of children in hospitals. Lots of great music on this compilation, from bands including Fourteen Twentysix, eskimeaux, and others.

Pick it up here for only $1 (or as much as you would like to donate!)