Bell Horses may be a new name in the music world, but the people behind it have plenty of experience. Bell Horses is a collaboration between Xian Hawkins (also known as electronic artist Sybarite) and one of my personal favorite singer/songwriters, Jenny Owen Youngs. “This Loves Last Time” is an album composed of eight songs fusing together the talents of these two diverse musicians. It’s an ideal mixture of Xian’s instrumentation and Jenny’s rich, honeyed voice.
The left-of-center arrangements on the album bring forth a palpable, evocative dreamy-pop sound that you rarely hear these days. Throughout this eight-song effort, Jenny’s normally boisterous and animated voice and more subdued and laid back, making it easy to get completely lost in the music.
“Still Life” opens the album with Jenny’s powerful vocals teetering from soft to louder through out the song, bringing the listener along for the ride, while the wistful beats in “Photograph” make the music almost tangible. “The Storm” takes a more soft and flowing route making the album certifiably varied. The album’s closer, “Dust of Us,” features synth-like sounds as Jenny’s voice fades out only a minute into the song. Filled with a granular resonance, the entrancing tune goes straight to your head, drowning out everything else around you. All the while, Xian Hawkins’ compositions create a whole new type of musical language.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact sound Bell Horses is going for on this experimental pop album, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. It’s the element of anticipation over what you’re going to hear next. “This Loves Last Time” was recorded, arranged and mixed in Victorian Church in Western Mass, a fitting location for such an ethereal sounding album.