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Olga Bell – “Tempo” Review

A diamond in the twisted world of electronica
Olga Bell
Olga Bell

Olga Bell refuses to walk a normal path and it’s something I really appreciate. I can only think of Emiliana Torrini and perhaps Shiina Ringo who are other artists that just flip from genre to genre with artistic aplomb. Tempo, is Olga’s new album that sits firmly in electronica and indie pop. It’s inventive, anti melodic and intrusive – but quite brilliant at the same time.

“Power User” kicks with off with a giant beat and lots of bendy synths in high pitch working around Olga’s voice as she laments “I see you think I’m nothing while your a power user” and the lyrics start off an album long nod to technology but as a proxy to channel various human traits. “Doppio” is so 80’s in its cheesy chord stabs its cute as it talks about internet fame’s emptiness. The track itself is mid-tempo and almost freeform in design whilst “Randomness” has beats, bass, synths and a proper hook to pull you in. It’s the gritty single that’s infectious and contains some lyrics that are bound to be misheard and catch on (try listening without thinking she’s singing “poop all over.. poop all over you”) and I hope it does. “ATA” is about as close to her last album as she gets with some clever vocal manipulation work but this track is all about the trippy bass line that chisels into your mind to make the backing vocals more weird. I really like the dank downtempo vibe of the track that hints at her heritage and is a great merger of several themes.

“Regular” is anything but. It’s echoed percussion smashes through collections of dialtones and weird little offshoots that ripple off as the track comes to mini stops as Olga has a mini freeform chorus. By all rights, it should be a mess, but it somehow is a tightly woven collection of happy accidents that just works. “Zone” is chilled in a more indie club fashion and is a single in waiting whilst “Ritual” goes full on club tune. Featuring Sara Lucas on vocals, we are going full on power diva here with a thumping club beat and plenty of arpeggio runners doing the rounds. Of course, with Olga around there’s plenty of pitch bending and weird synth work behind the scenes but if there’s a dance floor moment on the album – its this.

“Your Life Is A Lie” includes the amazing lyric “I love you long time with no guarantee” over a percussive and ambient treat. There’s a minor nod to Bjork’s Vespertine era with soft keyboards and lots of tiny percussive sparks flicking into your ears. It’s the gentle moment before “Stomach It” comes at you with thundering kick drums and metallic keyboards. It’s not full on crazy – the album doesn’t really go for that route – but Bell likes to weave chords and melodies that are slightly offkey and offbeat to add a dramatic effect. The album closes with “America” which is an excellent track and possibly my joint favourite. It is a brooding lament of the worries of a country spoken as an outsider looking in even though she is now on the inside. Maybe it’s the current political climate but it’s a fascinating take on things and the tracks organs and beats make for compelling listening.

Tempo doesn’t contain a straight up single in any shape or form – and in a way that’s a shame because Tempo requires several listens to catch the hooks, the hits and the hard lyrics that punch through with kick drums. It’s such a curious album – I still don’t feel I’ve cracked its thoughts after a couple of months and that is an achievement itself.

Recommended track: Randomness

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