OKP Premiere: Bells Atlas Charts A Worldly Groove On New Track "Future Bones"
Out of a blend of many rhythms comes the lush sound of Bells Atlas, an Oakland-based quartet that takes a worldly approach to rhythm & blues. Strongly influenced by to hip-hop, West African highlife, bossa nova and psych-rock, the group is preparing to unveil its new Hyperlust EP.
The band’s earliest days saw them performing as a two piece using looped beats, but very quickly live drums and guitar were added, rounding Bells Atlas out into a four piece. Lead singer Sandra Lawson-Ndu grew up hearing highlife on the family record player, while bassist Doug Stuart draws heavily from afrobeat and vintage funk. Acts like Nina Simone, Rex Lawson, Mary Mccaba and Hiatus Kaiyote get name-checked as major influences on the band’s development, and the band has all but mastered a sound that’s hypnotic and richly colorful.
It’s transportive music. With rhythms borrowed from soul, dub and latin psych-rock Bells Atlas paints pictures with every bar. “I think of our music as being very cinematic,” Lawson-Ndu said. “And I’m hoping that people can grasp onto their own visual for it.” Now, Okayplayer is very proud to premiere the group’s latest offering, the swaying and ethereal single “Future Bones.”
Born out of an intro of ricocheting clockwork drums, “Future Bones” floats on gently chords and Lawson-Ndu’s stunning voice before snapping straight into a latin groove. Guitars both starry and spastic dance in step with each of the front woman’s melodic turns, and the song closes with an extended break that flirts with full-on prog territory. In its four and a half minutes, “Future Bones” contains multitudes.
Musically, the song was born out of a jam session between Lawson-Ndu and drummer Geneva Harrison. A backbeat and chord loop were
established before eventual rewordings led to more prominent bass and that elaborate ending. All told, “Future Bones” was a process that
took Bells Atlas months to finish up, and the end product is proof positive that their hours have been well-spent. Its lyrics, too, are a vibrant and cinematic affair. “‘Future Bones’ has to do with what our bones will look like in the future,” Lawson-Ndu said. “If all that was left in terms of the human race were our spirits and we had the ability to create our physical form—would it be us collaging ourselves and picking up from the wastes of what we’ve left behind.”
“If we had control of what our bodies would like like, and the materials that make them up, what would that look like?” she asks. All
this and more is at work in “Future Bones.”
The new song will appear on Hyperlust, which is due for release this coming May. In the meantime, Bells Atlas plans to stay
encamped in Oakland writing new material and preparing whatever future may await them. If this new work is any indication, it’s going to be
vibrant and have a hell of a beat. Stream “Future Bones” below.