Review: Bell Gardens – Full Sundown Assembly (2013)

In any good story, change is essential, and for that change to occur there has to be some level of discovery. Either a discovery in oneself, the people around them, the world we all share, or collectively in all three as they’re often unavoidably intertwined. That discovery can be difficult or easy, subtle or loud, for the best or for the worst, but I think we all can agree the journey always seems more profound when scored with beautifully fitting music.

Full Sundown Assembly very much plays out like a soundtrack, and discovery appears to be a central theme. Through their gorgeously vast, yet eloquently sparse chamber pop, Bell Gardens debut LP creates a world of visuals surrounding the cusp of discovery. Upon first listens, I couldn’t help but be reminded of “The Virgin Suicides,” “The Life Aquatic,” and the underrated “Wicker Park”—all films accompanied by terrific music. However, as a whole, Full Sundown Assembly doesn’t readily trigger recollection or memories for me. It’s a page-turner record, one that willingly creates images of new, uncharted territory, and that’s quite a refreshing facet.

When reading about Bell Gardens, The Beach Boys appear to always be mentioned somewhere. Yes, you can hear the influence, especially in the harmonies and percussion of album single “Through The Rain.” However, Bell Gardens incorporates so many other diverse arrangements and sounds from different eras that they are very much on their way to an unique identity that’s all their own. With that said, I feel Full Sundown Assembly is a surprisingly accessible album considering the hefty amounts of instrumental segments it incorporates. Of the album’s eight tracks, many of them have lengthy, but beautifully lush instrumental bridges. It’s the near perfect balance between vocals and instrumentals that make it work.

Full Sundown Assembly’s greatest strength is in its fluidity. From the atmospheric intro of “Clinging To The Almost” on through the string-arrangement closure of “To Land,” the album is effortlessly interconnected all the way through. That may seem like an obvious point but it’s by no means always the case. Much like scenes in a movie, the songs of Full Sundown Assembly appear to be most rewarding when rolled out in order, one after another. But if there is only time for a quick track, might I suggest the upbeat, tranquilly bouncy “Fruitcup.”

Bell Gardens began as a project between two friends, Kenneth James Gibson and Brian McBride. Both have years of experience working individually in their own musical ventures, but Bell Gardens offered them a chance to make something more experimental than either had previously explored before. The result is a fine finished product. Full Sundown Assembly is music profound enough to score a movie but also perfectly capable of accompanying the discoveries of everyday life, which may be smaller-scaled, but are no less significant.

Bell Gardens
Official

Rating: 7.8/10

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