Bell Gardens is led by songwriters Kenneth James Gibson and Brian McBride, who is half of ambient-classical duo Stars of the Lid. Their knack for beautifully organic songwriting carries into this project, but that’s not to say it sounds entirely like Stars of the Lid. Gibson’s vast and stylistically multifarious experience as a songwriter and producer helps make Bell Gardens’ new album, Full Sundown Assembly, an entirely unique experience. Gibson’s career has touched everywhere from energetic noise-rock of the ’90s (Furry Things) to minimalist techno ([a]pendics.shuffle). Bell Gardens is perhaps the most accessible release in the vast discographies of both Gibson and McBride, who channel their abilities to construct audible atmospheres into a grandiose, spectacle-filled form of pop. The heavy-flowing space-rock of Spiritualized comes to mind as a comparison, but – again – Full Sundown Assembly is not the type to associate with past releases. This is fresh and engaging, despite projecting the expansive beauty that fans of Stars Of The Lid are accustomed to by now.
Bell Gardens’ lush wall of sound features twinkling piano leads, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and orchestral flourishes. Its beautiful and breathtaking success is prevalent without any visual accompaniment, but a stunning video for new track “Nowhere” certainly doesn’t hurt. As expected, Full Sundown Assembly is a stylistically playful release touching on everything from chamber-pop to expansive symphonies. “Nowhere” is fantastic, but I may love “Bobby” the most. The pulsing piano trickle on “Bobby” meshes well with somber strings and clock-like sound effects, emitting barren desolation through the gradual emergence of instruments. A chilling woodwind creeps in over a xylophone, which also gives way to a swelling string accompaniment. It’s a great demonstration of the duo’s evolving songwriting, which here results in an album that any listener – regardless of stylistic preference – can agree is radiant and beautiful in its own, unique sense.