Howling Bells Pull At Our Heartstrings

with Glassmaps and Ali Barter

With much anticipation close to 300 fans packed The Howler for the second in only three Australian shows for expats Howling Bells. Three years since their last Australian show, Howling bells, now based in London and Berlin have been touring the UK after completing what is bound to be their best work yet, fourth album, 'Heartstrings'.

A subtle brilliance to their melancholic melodies gives the music an uplifting quality which is no easy feat. From the macabre to the magnificent, vocalist Juanita Stein with brother, guitarist Joel, connect seamlessly as only siblings do. Add to this, the punchy sounds of drummer Glenn Moule, with the addition of UK bass player Gary Daines and Howling Bells take flight.

The night started with the room filling slowly to the sounds of support acts Glassmaps and Ali Barter which definitely set the atmosphere leaving enough space for the main act to elevate the audience.

Gloriously understated superior folk rock with a touch of blues. Glassmaps is the solo project for Joel Stein with Glenn Moule on drums. In a Melbourne first for Glassmaps, Joel moves between falsetto and chest voice, eyes closed for the most part, that he delivers with brazen modesty. His vintage blues rock electric guitar is complemented by Glenn's rhythmic drumming. The music swells to accompany the lyrical story telling from the sublime truth of 'My Head My Heart' to the hip popping track 'You Never Called Me'. Glassmaps captures something familiar and presents it in a way that is both fresh and intelligent.

Effortless magic from this haunting songstress, Ali Barter casts a spell with her ethereal mix of electro folk pop rock. She too, is brutally honest in sharing a personal story through song. Playing tracks from her self funded EP 'Trip', Ali is both talented and ambitious.

There is an intensity in the room and almost silence between each song. Howling Bells are all grown up, the slightly bitter but wiser offspring to former band Waikiki. The musical sensibility has never left them but the sweet pop rock sound of Waikiki has been replaced with a dark sophistication.

Juanita's eyes pierce through the smoke and into the crowd, a sea of swaying bodies, nodding heads and smiling faces, little is said, she lets the music speak for itself. There is a symmetry to the set from the heat in 'Original Sin' to the lush sounds of 'Your Love'. Here is a band that love what they do and the audience love it as well. Each song is a short burst of musical genius holding the audience joyously fixed, in awe of what they are witnessing, leading Juanita to flamboyantly remark how well behaved everyone is.

There are many contradictions embedded in Howling Bells. The country inspired guitar sounds in 'Slowburn', the dark yet uplifting qualities to the music and even the band name itself is a poetic device. They neatly unpack the spectrum of the human experience through song and deliver it with the confidence and authenticity that only comes with years of dedication. It is a shame they left the Country, but if this is the result, I'm glad they did.

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