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The Lonely Bell - The Absent Years

The Lonely Bell The Absent Years coverPerhaps it's because of his home in the Isle of Lewis but The Lonely Bell seem to deal in silence, desolation and solitude. Each release abounds with a deeply introspective ambience of shimmering drone sparsely populated with tones and textures, warming synths and sounds of the elements. There's more hush on The Absent Years with some tracks including elements of his solo folk guitar songs adding spacious melodies to some of the most searching and graceful drone around. The work of The Lonely Bell is gorgeous; a drift through a melancholic ache towards an alluring uplifting end.

It all opens up with the optimistically titled 'Someday The Rain Will End' and an ethereal drone, shimmering and glistening, as light tones patter underneath, dripping like raindrops onto a tin roof. Elegiac synths movements surface to shroud the tranquil sonic drift in with something even more melancholic. The first of many environmental recordings appear on 'Life Without Love' carrying plaintive tumbling acoustic guitar notes on a hushed windswept drone. Amidst the faint tremor of fluttering electronic tones, warming synth and yearning strings slowly rise, wrapping around as comforting arms shielding you from the cold and loneliness.

Drones and ambience abate for a moment for the dreamy and spacious lilting folk guitar picks and harmonics of 'The Silence That Fell Upon The World' offering a moment of reflection and contemplation. Performed over the slightest of drones, this one, perhaps picks up on elements of the solo offerings of Ali Murray released under his own name of alt-folk, dream-pop and shoegaze but here the desolate folk pickings acts as a transition point, as from this point onwards The Absent Years slowly reawakens into deeply introspective and nostalgic realms in tracks aching with barely perceptible drones and melodies. Spectres of melancholic piano notes chime below the sustained dronedrift of 'I Want To Tell You Everything', while the fog hued location recordings of 'A Ghostly Mist' are daubed with ghostly voices and phantom frequencies and signal tones. If these are dealing with the modern day failure of reconnection and communication then 'Only The Memory' hankers back to a faded past. Flickering to the spooling of a fragment of a film reel, its ghostly piano notes tinkering forgotten melodies as if soundtracking a lost black and white film and a vision of a time long gone.

The title track is perhaps the key track here bringing many of the sound elements together to a gorgeous crescendo. It's opening moments feel lost and drifting in deep lulling synth movements as if grappling with a sense of being and a feeling of uncertainty, before a sense of clarity reveals itself and it gently blossoms with stirring symphonics opening up into the light with a cinematic grace.

Subtle, sedate and understated The Absent Years is an absorbing and emotive listening experience, which doesn't require much effort from the listener but rewards them with beautiful slow gestating ambience. And as much as his work evokes the desolate landscape of his home on the Isle of Lewis through field recordings, together with dreamy synths, drone shimmer and sparse folk guitar it navigates a terrain of emotions. The Absent Years follows on from other well received releases such as The Outer Banks and Ghost Town Burning from an artist deserving of wider recognition. The Absent Years is available on limited lathe cut vinyl in an edition of 25 and tape limited to 50 copies from Oscarson bandcamp and also available digitally from The Lonely Bell bandcamp