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Dennis Young, "Bella"

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cover image Compared to the funk tinged sound of the seminal Liquid Liquid, founding member Dennis Young’s solo trajectory has been notably different in sound, and extremely difficult to compartmentalize.  While some of his previous works have continued the use of rhythm and percussion, Bella is a substantially different beast from start to finish.  There are no beats or loops or even electronic instrumentation here, it is entirely a work of solo guitar excursions that feature enough pedal usage to give it variety, but never losing focus on the instrument at hand.

Elevator Bath

Bella was borne out by pure happenstance:  Young had just purchased a new guitar pedal and at the point of just testing it out, he became inspired by the sound and immediately began recording the results.  Each of the songs here are just electric guitar and a tasteful amount of effects, but consistently grounded in his compositions, improvised or otherwise.

For some of the songs, his performance is rather pleasant and conventional.  The opening "Daybreak" leads with twanging guitar layers and echoing passages.  Both his playing and the tone itself are more musical than pedal manipulation, but it is just off kilter enough to give a distinct sound and demonstrate Young’s creative approach to the instrument, which continues into the dense note clusters that appear towards the end of the piece.  This leads into the chorus tinged sound (a nod to his post-punk days I am sure) of "City & the Stars."  Within these distinct notes he constructs additional waves of sound that surge in and slowly dissipate, giving an amazing sense of depth.

This oceanic dynamic is also prominent on "Park & Ride," which features an overall more rhythmic structure but with the emphasis on echoing tones swelling over the rich and nuanced background layers to then subtly withdraw.  Chords give a sense of rhythmic structure to "Die Glocke" as well, but as an anchoring layer to the swarms of guitar and noisier outbursts that Young adds more up front in the mix.  With his use of muted strings,  "Tightrope Tandem" features an almost percussive quality to it, but that overtaken quickly by squealing notes and bent pitches that lean more into chaos.

Some of the most memorable moments of Bella occur when Young combines these more difficult elements with the more conventional ones.  "Submerged" is a beautiful combination of gentle, expansive tones with the occasionally jarring harsh outbursts.  The entirely of the piece takes on this ghostly, abnormal hue that is made all the more fascinating with the complexity of the song ‘s structure.  "Weightless" is also a high point, where Young blends spectral high frequency sounds with lower, heavier moments.  Enshrouded in a sizeable amount of reverb, the disparate layers blend together beautifully.

Bella is, on the surface, a simple sounding work:  just guitar and effects.  However, Dennis Young’s performance and compositional skills result in an album that is so much more than the sum of its parts.  The mood varies significantly from piece to piece, yet there is a clear sense of cohesion.  From the delicate introspective moments to the commanding, forceful outbursts, it is enchanting from beginning to end.

Samples Available Here

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 December 2020 18:10  


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