Album Review :: I.Bell :: Summer Underneath

 by Daniel Kussy

Audio documentation of the intense heat

Back in April, Ian Bell found himself in a pickle. When his background in sociology couldn’t guarantee him secure employment due to a global pandemic, paired with any and all plans for attending live music/art gatherings evaporated in front of him for similar reasons, Bell found himself taking up manual labour in the outdoors.

What started as a task to keep him busy manifested into a hobby, which rekindled his appreciation for the grand space outside his front door. This new found appreciation is captured on Summer Underneath. Save for a more ambient take of the notable Washed Out track “Feel It All Around,” Summer Underneath can be imagined as three distinct settings as Bell reflects this past Manitoba summer, using a Roland SP-404 sampler combined with a Vox DelayLab.

The overwhelming bliss of the sun bares its own warning within the title on “30* in a vacant lot.” As the layers of Bell’s intricate sampling starts to bubble, beads of sweat race down his face as the tingle of the sun becomes a sunburn. He starts to think of places to cool off.

Shade from tall buildings over vacant lots

The soft, chorus heavy melody on “under the leaves” is a relieving departure that gives way to a moment of peace for body and mind. Though Bell’s time within this space can be contained for a minute, the lifted weight of the bright sun off the eyes can bring relief either laying underneath the tree far removed from a car-friendly surface, or deep within the concrete jungle, behind the temporary protection of brick and mortar as the sun moves to cover all angles of the brick-and-Mordor saviour.

Sparkling over still

The simple, easing components of “Humidex” paint a waterfront; the underlying hum is the motion of the water, whichever direction and however calm or aggressive. Every note tinkering along represents the reflective glistening off the sun, oxygen bubbles surfacing from the critters that inhabit that space. The sampled audio of insects abound brings Bell into the environment he sonically created. As this track builds up, Bell is inching deeper within the water, until everything is stripped back and left to fade, and Bell submerges himself underneath.

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