The work of Melynda Jackson with her instrumental curiosity that was SubArachnoid Space came to an end, sadly, in 2011 with the band’s final record, “Eight Bells.” Fortunately, Jackson saw that her musical journey was far from over, and drafted ex SAS drummer Chris Van Huffel and classically trained six-string bassist Haley Westeiner to form a new venture which took on the name Eight Bells, both in homage to previous work and to link the two together via the natural aesthetics of strangeness and the need for pure, unadulterated musical scope.
With “The Captain’s Daughter” Jackson treads a path of blackened dirge and the songs twist and turn into progressive dissonance and off-filter melody as well as taking on the more claustrophobic elements of doom. There’s no one aspect of any genre at work here and Eight Bells are difficult to pin down in terms of direction, but the trio pull off their feisty rhythms with grace, effortless style and of course bombastic elegance. Morose sentiment echoes throughout ‘Fate and Technology’ and Haley Westeiner uses her voice here to disarming effect. It floats above gloomy structures of sound and whilst it’s not a strong vocal performance, there’s an otherworldliness and a divinely haunting presence running throughout her carefully chosen words.
Droned out noise fills the oppressive title track and wordless snatches of human suffering reverberate around the space left by the electronic glitches of instrumental experimentation. Eight Bells are extremely capable of switching between different sounds and this near thirteen minute track is forever changing before your eyes – from heavily oppressive and weighty drives, to serenely calm shimmers of sadness to climbing and almost choral vocal lines – this band are challenging in the most rewarding sense. ‘Yellowed Wallpaper’ closes this opus with a distinct paranoia, the music reaching towards something untouchable yet defiantly tangible which makes all the more sense when you’re aware that the source material for this song is a short story* dealing with imprisonment and a descent into possible madness. Eight Bells layer emotional sound upon experimental anguish, and come through the other side somewhat intact…….in the physical sense at least. Join them for this tumultuous journey on the desperate waves of life.
*Reviewers note – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is excellent. The depths of the text are increasingly more difficult to cope with as the story progresses, and the ending is profoundly affecting, whether you’ve found salvation or have given up hope entirely. Read it.