Bill Wells and Isobel Campbell
Ghost of Yesterday
So this is what Isobel Campbell left Belle and Sebastian to do, eh? Avant-jazz renderings of Billie Holiday songs with Scottish indie jazz guru Bill Wells. Alright then.
There is something both haunted and haunting about these songs. The opener “All Alone” drifts in on waves of low drones and tape hiss supporting Campbell’s trademark wispy vocals. In this instance everything comes together perfectly. However, Campbell’s voice, while instantly recognizable and lovingly tattooed on my brain from endless B&S album spins, is not something to be classified as “strong.” Occasionally it falls flat, as it does on the high notes of the title track. It’s a minor quibble though because the flaws in her voice actually aid the damaged sounds — murky loops, echoing pianos, anxious guitars and ominous cellos — she and Wells arrange for the songs. Unfortunately, four of the album’s seven songs fall short of, or barely break, the two-minute mark, fading away just as quickly as they appear. Only the final track, “Somebody’s on My Mind,” manages to flex its musical muscles enough to break free of the gloom and rise above the fog and clouds. This is a good album for down times, but I can’t help but wish Isobel hadn’t left Belle and Sebastian behind, because this album is still only a ghost of her former band.
Creeping Bent: http://www.creepingbent.org/