Regina Hexaphone - Superfan Records

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Regina Hexaphone - Superfan Records
Regina Hexaphone
"A pastoral dream of evocative
imagery and subtle style."
Grayson Currin, Independent Weekly
"Beautiful and mesmerizing to
listen to."
Jeri Rowe, Greensboro News and Record
"A rich, sonorous excursion through
gentle, loping melodies guided by Sara
Bell's dreamy vocals."
Chris Parker, Independent Weekly
“It’s the only place worth being.”
M.J. Fine, Philadelphia City Paper
"A band that even on the worst of
days would be able to convince you
that it is a beautiful world indeed."
North Carolina’s Regina Hexaphone return with Into Your
Sleeping Heart, a stunning sophomore release, on the new
Raleigh label/management collective Superfan Records.
Following their 2004 debut The Beautiful World, the Hex have
crafted another confident genre-melding musical palette from
which the songs and stories of Sara Bell spring forth and
burrow their way deep into your memory. Call it folk, call it pop,
call it rock, call it Americana: this is magical music for the heart
and the soul.
Sara Bell and Regina Hexaphone have been kicking
around for nigh on ten years, but their musical pedigrees
extend well beyond that. A talented multi-instrumentalist in her
own right, Bell has toured extensively, played various
instruments and assumed various roles with Tres Chicas,
Anders Parker, Dana & Karen Kletter, Dish, Shark Quest,
Jeffrey Dean Foster and many others. Bassist Chris
Clemmons founded the Hex with Bell in 1997. Drummer and
legendary indie rock producer Jerry Kee played in Dish with
Bell and has played with and recorded more bands at his
Duck Kee Studio than can possibly be listed here. Bell,
Clemmons and Kee are joined on “Into Your Sleeping Heart”
by part-time members Nathan Brown and Margaret White
(Cat Power, Jennifer O’Connor, Portastatic, Belle & Sebastian,
Sparklehorse). Special guests include Anders Parker
(Varnaline) and Greg Humphreys (Hobex).
Jenn Young, Daily Athenaeum
“Sara Bell...has a voice that sounds as
though she is singing directly to you.
(The Beautiful World is) an intriguing
cohesive collection of off-centre indie
folk with interesting touches.”
Superfan Records P.O. Box 25471 Raleigh NC 27611
[email protected] › www.reginahexaphone.com
Americana UK
12 SEP 2007
Regina Hexaphone
Into Your Sleeping Heart
(Superfan Records)
by Chris Parker
After the gentle, hazy drift of its debut, The Beautiful World,
it's strange and thrilling to hear Regina Hexaphone
exchange their exquisiteness for greater muscularity. Bassist
Chris Clemmons' presence—in concert with Jerry Kee's
tasteful percussion—is felt throughout, a wonderful chrysalis
that serves to ground the near-twee elegance of Margaret
White's violin work within an unusually punchy, still homey
pop bustle.
The first third of Into Your Sleeping Heart starts, in some sense, innocuously, with "Empty the Rivers" and
the "Where the Angels Sing," featuring Anders Parker's haunted organ and echoing The Band's instrumental
rootsy warmth. "The Move" sounds like a Neko-ish country vamp with pretty harmonies, while highlight "The
Forty-Niner" strikes a poignant tone, working a perky Weimar-gypsy vibe as it intertwines expressions of
materialism and disaffection.
Were those the only notes Heart struck, they would've been fine, but, onward from the sixth track, Regina
Hexaphones deliver three of its best cuts to date. The back half opens with "Spider Boys," whose bright,
open-hearted melodicism recalls Bettie Serveert's Carol Van Dijk on their signature Palomine, plus a dash of
the Concretes' Swedish shimmer. Next thing you know, Sara Bell is shouting like she's Kate Pierson, as
Nathan Brown's organ and guest Greg Humphrey's hot pedal steel provide a soulful wave that fuels "Glory
Be." Handclaps and stomps fuel the jaunt of "Waiting for the Wind," whose call-and-return vocals are
unabashedly catchy, and "Parade" caps the middle third with an experimental, guitar-driven flair, heralding
the band's toughest—if not most endearing—tone on the album. Penultimate track "The Rib Shack" serves
another reminder of Hex's ability to blend folksy jangle and White's dulcet strings in a plucky pop universe of
Bell's affable vocals. Few acts can be as unaffected, engaging and majestic at same time.
HEAVENLY STAIRWAY
19 DEC 2007
by Chris Parker
Photo by Michael Traister
"This band could be a Buddhist," Regina Hexaphone frontwoman Sara Bell offers, explaining the ethos driving their sweet,
homey indie pop. "Let it be what it is, let it live in the moment, and don't try to force it."
Led by the unassuming Bell, Regina sidles up gently alongside the listener, hips swinging with a tender, artless vulnerability,
lips pursed in a big smile. Needless to say, they're hard to resist. The diminutive, generous-spirited redhead formed the band a decade
ago with bassist Chris Clemmons, guided by a bad reaction to Courtney Love. Who hasn't been there?
The story's set during Hole's Live Through This tour. At the time Bell was playing with Dana Kletter in Dish. Kletter sang backup on Hole's breakthrough 1994 album, but had never met Love, so Bell and Kletter went to the show: "It was the height of her sort of
despicable antics. She would start and stop songs in the middle, and her band just kind of went along. I guess they were well
compensated, but it just seemed so completely self-indulgent," Bell remembers.
At the time, she was struggling with the concept of leading her own band. While a talented musician, she wondered, "How do
you convince people to play your songs with you over and over again?" Witnessing Love's self-aggrandizement and the hell she put her
bandmates through gave Bell pause. Suffering through Dish's subsequent major-label ordeal (Dish released one album on Interscope
in 1995 before breaking up) strengthened her resolve.
"[The Dish situation] was really hard, and there was so much pressure on people in the band to commit. It's fine if that's your
commitment, but you get older and everybody has stuff going on. I just never wanted to feel like people had to commit completely and
pay allegiance to [Regina Hexaphone]. So it's like when people were around they could do it—sometimes we'd have eight on stage,
and sometimes we had three," she says.
For Bell it was also about gaining confidence in her voice. She'd played in several local bands but had never been a singer. As
a child, her singing voice was disparaged. Fortunately, she lived in a Durham apartment converted from an old house that had a huge
staircase leading up to her place.
"It was 20 feet from the floor to the ceiling," she recalls. "I used to sit on the stairs and sing when I was writing a lot of the
songs that would become Regina Hexaphone. I was very intimidated and self-conscious about my voice. But I would sing and it just
sounded so beautiful, it made me realize, 'If I can sound the way I sound in this hallway, maybe someday I can actually be a singer.'"
Now 10 years and two terrific albums later, there's hardly a disparaging word for Bell's dulcet vocals or her pretty songs.
Regina's latest, Into Your Sleeping Heart, broadens the musical aesthetic with an eclectic blend of songs, from the bounding new wave
of "Glory Me" to the bluesy rave "More." Yet despite it all, as Bell discusses the evening's practice she still sounds as humble as when
she started.
"We've pulled out some really old songs and I've asked these guys, 'Are you sick of these songs yet?' They said, 'No,'" she
says excitedly. "If you don't get sick of playing the same songs for 10 years, then they must be okay songs."
Bell tacks on a zinger that might just as well apply to her own attitude: "It's either really sweet," she says, "or really
dysfunctional."
Regina Hexaphone celebrates its 10th anniversary with a show at the ArtsCenter Saturday, Dec. 22, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12.
June 9, 2004
SOUNDBITES
"The Beautiful World"
Regina Hexaphone
(Erie Recordings)
BY CHRIS PARKER
Inviting and suffused with a supple grace and
beauty, Regina Hexaphone's debut album is a
rich, sonorous excursion through gentle,
loping melodies guided by Sara Bell's dreamy
vocals.
Bell's a terrific musician who also exercises
her chops in the instrumental outfit
Sharkquest, and her playing--whether it be piano, guitar, mandolin or organ--keys the
album's warm textures. Equally as important is Margaret White, whose violin offers a lot
of sonic color, alternating between a mournful country crawl ("Highway 65," "40 Days")
and expansive, elegiac numbers ("Bright Falling Stars," "Ethan's Dreams") reminiscent in
their haunting melancholy tone of Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis. The Beautiful
World has nary a soft spot, unless you're talking about the place it makes in your heart,
and there's a variety of flavors across the album from the light, jazzy skronk of "Cicadas"
to the blooming, organ-fueled summer hues of "Hero Wings" to the reflective, folk-tinged
charms of album-opening highlight, "The Seahorse and the Sand Dune."
It may have taken seven years for them to release this album, but it won't take ten
minutes for listeners to be seduced by this album's sophisticated allure.
The Herald Sun
Sara Bell's 'Beautiful World' solid, eccentric, gentle, intriguing
The Herald-Sun
Jun 2, 2004 : 3:38 pm ET
DURHAM -- Tuesday marked the release date of Sara
Bell and her band Regina Hexaphone's new album "The
Beautiful World" (Erie Recordings). Bell and her band will
perform songs from that new release at two local venues
in the coming week. Bell and Regina Hexaphone will be
performing at Sadlack's in Raleigh, with The Moaners,
Sunday and at The Cave in Chapel Hill on Thursday.
"The Beautiful World" is an artistically solid, eccentric
piece of work. Bell is the principal songwriter, and her
varied musical background translates here most
noticeably in the stylistic differences between songs and
the pleasing unpredictability of the arrangements.
Margaret White's violin provides wonderful colors on
several tunes, including "Cicadas" and "Ice," and
arrangements featuring Julie Oliver's trumpet and Chris
Eubank's cello are inspired. "The Beautiful World" is
somewhat esoteric as a stylistic statement, yet whatever here that's obscure is intriguing rather than pretentious. The overall feel of
the record is gentle, but the ideas at play are challenging.
Sara Bell's family is originally from Cleveland, but they moved to the Triangle when Sara was 7. "I'm from North Carolina, as far as
I'm concerned," she said. "When I got older and started traveling, I realized how totally Southern I am."
Bell graduated from N.C. State with a bachelor's degree in history, though her contribution thus far has been mainly in the making
of music history.
She started out on piano as a child, moved on to banjo and, eventually, guitar. The first band she was in was Angels of
Epistemology. Bell subsequently played with the band Dish.
"Around 1988-89 I also started playing a bit with Laird Dixon," Bell recalled. "He was writing a lot of great songs and I just had a
terrific time playing with him. His stuff was a lot like the way I'd started out playing with Angels of Epistemology."
Part of her attraction to Dixon's music was that his sound fit nicely with her individual style of playing the banjo. "You see, when I
picked up the banjo and started plucking around on it, trying to play country music or bluegrass, everything came out sounding like
eastern European Gypsy music," she said. "I had this Earl Scruggs book and I tried so hard to pick like a real bluegrass picker, but I
just couldn't do it. ? Luckily, my banjo sound worked with the material Laird was writing and I just kept doing music with him."
Laird's writing in the late 1980s eventually led to the formation of Shark Quest, a band Bell has played with since its beginnings. The
band plans to release an album in August.
Bell's decade-long involvement with Shark Quest did not hinder her from penning a collection of songs that have become the debut
album for her band Regina Hexaphone.
"Once Dish broke up, I'd written a bunch of songs and I was working with Jerry Kee, who owns Duck Kee recording studio, recording
the songs," Bell said. "I'm not real savvy about making records, but Jerry and I did record a bunch of stuff. My friend Chris
[Clemmons] heard the tape of the songs and said, 'Let's get together, let's play your songs,' so we did."
She and Clemmons then spent a couple months playing in Bell's living room and later played a gig at The Cave. Zeke Hutchins [Tift
Merritt & The Carbines] started sitting in on drums, and Greg Humphreys [Hobex] was sitting in on guitar. A couple of months later
Margaret White joined the band. "She's an unbelievably amazing soulful violinist," Bell said of White.
"Once Tift's first album came out, Zeke got real busy on the road with Tift, so Jerry Kee volunteered to fill in on drums. He's a really
inventive drummer. Chris Clemmons has been playing bass with us since our living room days."
Regina Hexaphone's sound does not fit into a neat category, Bell said. "I don't think any of the music I've played in my entire life
has fit into any category. It would be so much better if it did, because it's so much easier for people to latch onto a label. I am
pretty obsessed with Patty Smith and Ricky Lee Jones, and Laura Nyro was an early favorite. I think you can hear their influences in
these songs."
Philip Van Vleck charts our world's music from his office in Cary. Reach him at [email protected]
Philadelphia City Paper
November 10-16, 2005
November 10-16, 2005
MUSIC
One Track Mind
"Cicadas"
by Regina Hexaphone
If you don't know Regina Hexaphone, it might help to know
that singer-guitarist-pianist Sara Bell is a hired gun for Tres
Chicas and Anders Parker, or that Margaret White's played
violin behind Chan Marshall. Triangulate if you must, but
these North Carolinians tend their own lush patch on The
Beautiful World. "Cicadas" begins with thumps and twitches; a
cymbal buzzes, a pick scratches strings with increasing fervor.
A guiro ticks at irregular intervals. Then there's a subtle shift:
A moody guitar rings out, a trumpet whines and Chris
Clemmons' bass paces like a heartbeat. Bell's words warn of
water, but her voice keeps heading toward danger as if in a trance. Violin and guitar rise up
like a high wire fence that doesn't keep out what it ought to. When Bell tries a different lyrical
tack, her bandmates' voices blend with hers before circling back into separate strains. A guitar
squalls as the trumpet takes the lead, then the feedback becomes a faint, steady hum.
Everything else trails off into the dark. It's the only place worth being.
Regina Hexaphone's Web site has just a short clip of "Cicadas," and it's not on their MySpace
page at all. If you're lucky, they'll play it Friday at The Manhattan Room.
—M.J. Fine

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