Soulful noise pop, inspired, propellent psych R&B... Trying to nail down the sound of Bells Atlas is a bit like narrating the inner workings of a kaleidoscope – where it's more about tripping out than nailing it down.
A surreal blend of r&b, psychedelia, jazz, and pop, rooted in the cultural bellwether of Oakland, CA, Bells Atlas has supported a number of international artists and shared the stage with acts such as Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angélique Kidjo and more. They have also been making a name for themselves nationally as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgment since 2016, and recently wrapped up a sold-out tour supporting Bermuda Triangle, side-project of Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard.
Channeling at once the ramshackle lo-fi beats of Tune-Yards and the sighing lullabies of Sade, Bells is like the passing bubbles of an unknown aquatic life-form, music percolates from depths untaken, playing in a deep blue pool of life, death and the fluid in-between.
Bells Atlas returns from a one year retreat with the driving drums of “Be Brave," the band is back again to remind us that the sensitive, too, can go to war. Directed by the San Francisco-based filmmaker Dominic Mercurio, their music video for “Be Brave” lands Bells Atlas singer Sandra Lawson-Ndu in a strange desert landscape, and out of water. After succumbing to dehydration, she is abducted by strange beings that perform a ritual to revive her...with one major consequence.
There is a limited edition 10” vinyl pressing of “Be Brave” paired with two previously released singles and an instrumental to kick off an east coast summer tour.
These are just the first few salutations in a big year ahead for Bells Atlas – with a full length LP and accompanying EP of all-original material prepped for release and club dates throughout the US.
Emily Ritz is a musician and visual artist based in Hudson, NY creating otherworldly soul music. A native New Yorker, Ritz spent nearly a decade in the Bay Area making art and performing/releasing music with bands Yesway, Honeycomb, and DRMS. Though her music and art remain very much inspired by the lush landscapes of Northern California, Ritz moved back East in 2016. There, she began performing under her own name for the first time and recorded her first solo album Pattern Recess.
Over the years Emily has shared the stage with artists such as Deradoorian, Toro Y Moi, Laura Veirs and Mirah, and collaborated with members of My Morning Jacket, Thao With The Get Down Stay Down, and Two Gallants.
Ritz struggles with Lyme-related arthritis, which at times has left her totally disabled. If you listen closely to her songs, you can hear her experience of feeling trapped in her body, while trying to hold on to the hope for a return to health. The darkness and devastation that comes from loss of mobility is certainly felt, yet the overwhelming sensation given off by these songs is one of healing. It’s rare to find an artist through whom the bliss of creation flows so freely.
Pattern Recess is guided by Ritz’s strong, soulful voice and experimental sensibility. While classic elements of jazz and R&B can be heard, Ritz's sound is enticingly off-kilter due to her subtly unusual melodic choices and inventive use of electronic manipulation. She uses her voice to weave complex harmonies and avant-garde patterns while delivering poignant and romantic lyrics. Confident and idiosyncratic, Ritz calls forth other bold female artists such as Jenny Hval, Amy Winehouse, Circuit Des Yeux, Solange, and early Grimes.
The production on Pattern Recess is varied and fresh. Underneath Ritz’s powerful vocals, her reverb-drenched guitar picking ripples like waves on a pool. Amidst the dreamy fluidity, are moments of charmingly inventive percussion and unexpected instrumentation. Odd time signatures and satisfying syncopation deftly brandish excitement and the occasional sci-fi sound effect adds a playfully cosmic tone. While her intimate songwriting and delicate fingerpicking are akin to the contemporary folk of Jessica Pratt and Angel Olsen, electronic neo-soul twinges call forth the seductive trip-hop of James Blake.
Pattern Recess was released on April 27th 2018, followed by a solo tour during which Emily played 26 shows across the US and back. More recently she went to France and Spain opening several shows for Chris Garneau. Emily is almost done with her next album engineered and produced by Luke Temple and is planning to release some new music later this summer.