"The second release from the unique Norwegian group Bel Canto is a significant improvement over White-Out Conditions, which was already a fine album. On Birds of Passage, Bel Canto marries the gorgeous female vocals of Anneli Drecker, frosty and languid synth textures, subtle electronica rhythms, and ethnic touches. The difference here compared to White-Out Conditions is that the group has expanded their lush sonic tapestry with more diverse instruments (violins, cellos, trumpets, dynamic keyboards, "stardust," whatever that is...). Also, the overall sound is much warmer because Drecker's voice sounds soooo much prettier on this album. She has abandoned that clipped form of singing that sometimes irked me on the previous album, and now she lets the words flow with grace and fine control. Her voice is the main instrument, and she more commanding by not flaunting her singing ability and just singing with the song. When she's not singing low and spooky, as on the Depeche Mode-ish "Intravenous" or parts of "Look 3", she has one of the prettiest voices out there. On one song, "Time Without End," Drecker is accompanied by bandmate Nils Johansen on vocals, and their harmonies create a nice effect, even if Johansen isn't that great a singer. Most songs are slow-tempo beauties, although there's the feisty, Mediterranean-flavored "The Glassmaker," where Drecker whoops and coos playfully, and "Oyster," where Drecker sounds a little peppier, with a lovely and cool melody fixing the chorus. Drecker's voice will melt you on this song. By the way, if anyone's wondering what Bel Canto means, I think it's Italian for "beautiful song." Fitting name, methinks."
Primitive world pop????
Clarissa | Ontario, California | 10/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bel Canto is a native Norwegian group that's hard to categorize, and that's an understatement. I could easily praise this band with every honorable word in the dictionary but you'd still be left feeling clueless because they've got such a unique sound that's entirely their own. At times you'll think the lyrics are made up of their own creative tongue set to the passion of the moment, kind of like Dead Can Dance and Ekova's strangely affective method, but they're mostly sung in English or other foreign languages. The music in itself leaves so much open to the imagination and the vocals of Anneli Drecker never cease to amaze me. She's got a spellbinding voice that fits in with the dreamy, haunting, whimsical sounds that Nils Johansen concocts perfectly. The musicianship is impeccable and every cord strung oozes magic and mystery. I just love how they use such a varied assortment of instruments, especially their trademark bouzouki, mandolin and trumpet. This group has definitely evolved through the years, always good at what they're doing, but 'Birds Of Passage', their second and last release with founding member Geir Jenssen, proves to be my favorite - just behind their masterful 'Shimmering Warm and Bright', of course. I haven't heard their most recent 'Dorothy's Victory' yet but I'm hoping to buy that with Anneli's solo album, 'Tundra', later this year because I'm nutso over Bel Canto and wanna acquire everything brought out by them!"
Simply my favorite album
Robert T. Nicholson | Sunnyvale, CA USA | 12/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Haunting melodies, poetic lyrics, incredible vocals. Bel Canto is the best "unknown group" you will ever find."
Got me through...
The Hoopster | Winston-Salem, NC USA | 06/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The year was 1990. I had a bit of a "dark" period in my sophomore year in college. Not as in "evil" but more of a "blue" period, such as Van Gogh. I call it a mixture of home sickness and lonelines. So I went out to find some music that had a mood to it and that I could relate to in terms of where I was at the time. I listen to everything from rock to bluegrass to techno to classical. I saw this album mixed among the racks at a music store near campus and tried it out. After just the first 30 seconds of the first 3 songs I dove in and bought it. The track "Continuum" is my favorite. The rest of the songs take you in a wide array of emotions. One makes me think of love. Another, pain and misery. Another song is hopeful, as if looking for treasure. And one even makes me happy and want to dance. Some will haunt you, causing you to be silent, reflective, temperate. This album did not age with me. It still is in the front of my CD holder among my most listened to. It carried me then. It brings memories to me now. It takes me back to times of change. It carries me forward to the change of the future. With it, I dream. I escape into another place, and forget my troubles in a world apart. Begin your own dreams... This album will take you to them..."