Sound Advice: Wild Belle with JSPH (Nov. 8)

Brother-and-sister duo Wild Belle brings multidimensional Pop to the Woodward Theater.

click to enlarge Wild Belle - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Wild Belle
As Elliot and Natalie Bergman grew up in a suburb near Chicago, the elder brother would share music with his little sister, who was eight years younger. While the family also bonded over Jazz and Soul tunes, one specific type of music Elliot (a multi-instrumentalist who studied Jazz at the University of Michigan) turned Natalie onto planted the seeds of what would become Wild Belle. Natalie, a violinist and mesmerizing vocalist who showed her talent at a young age, fell in love with the ’60s and ’70s Ska and Reggae records that came out of Jamaica.

In college, Elliot and some friends formed the compelling band Nomo, which creatively blended African rhythms with Funk, Jazz and other musical concepts into a dance-friendly sound that earned the group a following on the road. Nomo was largely an instrumental unit, but as soon as she was old enough Elliott brought his talented younger sister into the fold to tour and provide some occasional vocals and percussion to the mix. Natalie added dazzling lead vocals to a Nomo track Elliott was working on, 2010’s single “Upside Down,” which smoldered with strong Pop melodicism and sensual soulfulness. The track was the siblings’ first official collaboration and, while the rest of Nomo and its fanbase didn’t appreciate the different approach (she was fired), it laid the groundwork for Wild Belle. The pair injected a strong tropical, Jamaican rhythmic flavor and Soul/R&B personality into an eclectic, textural Alt Pop style that showcased their unique, magical creative chemistry. Elliott and Natalie put their focus into the new project, drawing industry attention with their charmingly unique sound and quickly landing a record deal with Columbia Records, which released Wild Belle’s debut, Isles, in 2013.

This spring, Wild Belle (which tours with a full band) released Isles’ follow-up, Dreamland, which was recorded in various locales (including Jamaica, Nashville and L.A.) with various producers (including The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek and Diplo). That broad production foundation is reflected in Dreamland’s more varied sound, which only further spotlights Wild Belle’s greatest skill — combining diverse styles and sounds so ingeniously that instead of sounding like a disparate hodge-podge, the music comes off as fluid, natural and distinctly Wild Belle. The songwriting is also ratcheted up a notch on Dreamland, with the buoyant, irresistible vocal hooks given extra depth thanks to Natalie’s darker, soul-stirring lyrics, which were inspired by a hurtful romantic breakup. It’s that endless tinkering with contrasting hues and shadings that makes Dreamland one of the most inventive, multidimensional Pop albums you will hear all year, putting the duo in the same game-changing, individualistic league as Pop adventurers from Björk to Lorde. 

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