Bellini’s story is the stuff of legend: former members of Don Caballero and Uzeda start something of a “we used to be on Touch & Go” post-hardcore supergroup, drummer has a mental breakdown and drives off with the tour van, leaving the band stranded while on tour. Bass player calls up his buddy who learns all the drum parts in one day by listening to the band’s CD and then becomes a permanent fixture in the band, merely moments after returning from a tour with his other band, Girls Against Boys. And sure enough, here we are, two years later, with a brand new album featuring that new drummer (Alexis Fleisig), titled Small Stones.
The above is a hell of a story, but it’s merely window dressing. What’s really important is Bellini’s sound, which is one of both chaos and calculation. Sounding more like a Chicago band in 1993 (Bellini does rhyme with Albini, you know) than an Italian/Texan/New Yorker band in 2005. There are lots of Shellac-isms, as well as moments that recall Jesus Lizard. And, yes, there are some Don Caballero sounding songs as well, only with more noise and vocals.
At the beginning of “Room Number Five,” the band exudes a mysterious noir-rock sound, guitarist Agostino Tilotta opting for minor key waves of dissonant chords, rather than noisy riffs and feedback. “Fuck the Mobile Phone,” however, sounds more like a more mathematically-minded Birthday Party, Tilotta’s guitar snapping and ringing in much more jarring and startling fashion. Vocalist Giovanna Cacciola sings almost against the music, her subtle coo treading a path almost perpendicular to the band’s music, rather than parallel. Her voice recalls a more primal version of Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, with a little more power behind it. And the addition of Fleisig’s drums adds a definite level of intensity to the mix.
When the band really lets loose, like on the chaotic “The Buffalo Song,” it’s best to get out of their way. They could really fuck you up if you’re not careful. But their creepy and exotic tracks like “Smiling Fear” are equally intriguing, offering new and varying shades of scenery to the otherwise well-tread post-harcore path.
Bellini seem to have recovered quite well from their infamous tour incident, and Small Stones is proof of their resilience. They tear it up with so much volume and intensity, it’s as if the frustration only contributed to their musical strength.
Jesus Lizard – Liar
Shellac – At Action Park
Blonde Redhead – In an Expression of the Inexpressible
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.