23 October 2010

Radio Ponsonby Record Review: Belleruche '270 Stories'

270 Stories
[Tru Thoughts]

"Beautiful Beehive". That's the literal French translation of the word "Belleruche".

It's also a pretty apt description of the left-of-centre blend of scratchy hip hop beats, bluesy guitar licks & soulful, honeycomb vocals found on London, UK trio Belleruche's new album, 270 Stories.

While their critically acclaimed debut album Turntable Soul Music (2007) & its equally well received follow up The Express (2008) both sound "...like Sarah Vaughan, Django Reinhardt & Cut Chemist stuck in a lift with Russian beer & a sampler..." (as their very well-written press release/bio so snazzily & succinctly states it); the "difficult" 3rd album sees the group's sound changing, at times quite considerably.

Belleruche have genuinely hit their stride with 270 Stories, tying together all that is so appealingly fresh & distinctive about their sound. It is a far more layered & textured listen than either of their previous albums, while also being tougher, more aggressive & certainly more introspective. The beats from turntablist DJ Modest are harder-edged, with a nod to darker contemporary influences; while guitarist Ricky Fabulous (a relation of Mike from The Black Seeds perhaps...!?) also adds bass guitar to many of the tracks here, creating an exciting dynamic interplay between guitar & bass.

Singer Kathrin deBoer has already marked herself as a serious talent to seriously watch, appearing on (seriously good!) albums from DJ Vadim, Bonobo & Aaron Jerome. With 270 Stories she lives up to the hype: while others still rely on vocal preening & strutting with little of real substance to back it up, deBoer kicks it right in the guts, Trev; looping her voice, tweaking it with guitar effects pedals & layering harmonies atop one another, adding depth to an already rather thick, yet sophisticated, musical stew.

To be perfectly frank - and if you can't be frank when writing your own blog, please tell me when you can - it does take a couple of listens to really "get" 270 Stories. I admit I didn't warm to it immediately. Start with Clockwatching, or maybe even with one of their other records altogether. That'll help to illustrate m point: that this album is the sound of a band pushing forward, ignoring the supposed limitations of a vocals-guitar-turntable trio & letting their ideas roam free.

In A Nutshell: tough hip hop-styled beats, deep bluesy guitar licks & honeycomb vocals reward repeat listens
Nyntee's Rating: SEVEN beautiful beehives out of TEN

Listen to Sweetpants & 90 "talking about music" every Wenerei morning at 8.30am on Radio Ponsonby 107.7FM. Big thanks to Longroom.

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