Furnished Rooms

Bela Karoli

Helmet Room Recordings, 2007

http://www.myspace.com/belakaroli

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/26/2010

Furnished Rooms acquires a lot of its characteristics from the Kraftwerk-esque techno era, except that the music here is mostly all but electronic. “Sparse” is not a term to be used loosely when it comes to describing this debut record by Bela Karoli. In fact, there is no better word – not even a genre – that can quite explain this band’s music.

The usage of violin, cello, upright bass, and the accordion as the primary instruments quickly gives the impression that Furnished Roomsmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is some sort of a jazz or baroque pop record. Add to this the vocals of frontwoman Julie Davis, which have a laidback, unmistakably jazzy quality to them. But even with its bare sound, this record manages to convincingly cut across far more genres than just jazz – electronica, indie pop, and something that is reminiscent of sedated Scandinavian folk music.

Without the presence of any drums or percussive elements for the most part, the band uses the upright bass authoritatively, thumping it to give some sense of rhythm to the songs. The bleak shadow of the upright bass forms the framework upon which a darker world is built, aided by cello and the violins that squeak and squeal to their eeriest potential.

The resulting soundscape is not melancholic, yet it is minimally dreary. But the material itself isn’t the Gothic downtempo kind, and these songs even have an element of folksiness to them. The gloominess comes naturally, from the creaking sounds of the archaic instruments used and the sheer minimalism of the music they produce, which bears striking and strange resemblance to (and is a more palatable form of) ‘70s avant-garde electronic music.

Even though it seems antiquated, the music of Bela Karoli is not without sophistication, which comes in the form of subtlety. Furnished Rooms is full of delicately produced sounds from a number of unknown instruments. The cheekiness of the album lies in how much it relies on electronics, yet also how unassuming those artificial sounds are.

Considering its weirdness, Furnished Rooms is not that inaccessible a record after all, although its strangeness does make it intimidating. At the same time, the out-of-this-world sound of this record also makes it awesomely interesting, certainly in line with Radiohead’s Kid – not so much in terms of the absolute brilliance of the outcome, but definitely in terms of shattering the barriers of conventionality.

Rating: B+

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