Linear Bells
Los Angeles EP






Linear Bells is the moniker for David Teboul who delivers his solo debut EP called Los Angeles, currently available as a free download on his Bandcamp page. Whatever the name of this megacity means to you, Teboul will probably not match your expectations. Instead of the depiction of glitzy glamour and lazy afternoons loaded with aperitifs in a hip café near Toluca Lake, Teboul takes the listener on a road trip around a fictitious Los Angeles. There are – without one exception – no field recordings, no aural landmarks or peculiarities that would remind you of the city. As a trade-off, the artist merges two distinctive Ambient styles in all of the 5 songs. For one, he creates darkly pulsating synth pad soundscapes that could be taken straight from cryptic Sci-Fi movies and thrillers of the 80's; they also remind me of gloomy Pop albums. In a second step, he unites them with cinematic piano melodies, gleaming synth swirls and even violin strings on one track. The result inherits that 80's feeling that people seem to deeply love or hate with a passion. The strings and synths themselves are minimal, but since Linear Bells plays all the layers together at the climax of most of the tracks, each track feels loaded with electronic tidbits and real instruments. I will review all of the five tracks below and give a final statement afterwards.

Road_START makes immediately clear where the journey is going to. Oscillating drones are interspersed with pulsating synth pads and a glacial loop of a tense siren. Even though I'm using Vangelis comparisons quite regularly whenever I can, Road_START is majestic in its darkness and has a bold 80's feeling that is further enhanced in the last few seconds when a real drum kit adds the atmosphere of a Depeche Mode Synth Pop hymn. I don't know if Teboul is a fan, but this stye is not without innuendo. Once you think that the track is ready to take off, it does the opposite and stops abruptly. I would have loved a longer explication, even more so since the setting so far has next to nothing to do with Los Angeles – but I think I've found a link to the city anyway, but more about this later. Road_N2 picks up a similar dark, foresaken mood from the start: slow piano melodies are merged with angelic synth pads, and the addition of violin strings which serve as backing devices make this a flittering track which induces loneliness but also encapsulates shimmering heat and pictures of desert-like wastelands. Though the EP isn't called Las Vegas, it seems to inherit a glowing heat – which can be found outside of Los Angeles as well. Consider this part of the road Teboul's first successful track: it is intense, cinematic and beautiful in its depiction of melancholy. Taking these things into account, Los Angeles with all of its movie-related agencies and offices is appropriately adapted in Road_N2, especially at the end of the track when all layers are played simultaneously.

Road_N3 is an iridescent Ambient track with a slow bell melody and desperado-like guitar pluckings that mimic a gourd – anyway, it's a unison you don't hear often. The track focuses on brighter elements, omitting the darker synth parts. Additional hi hats and soft drums enter the second half of the track, but the glistening aura is never destroyed, and the monotonous whistles keep their presence. Road_N4 is my favorite tune off the EP, even though its beginning is overly playful and off-putting: various xylophones, bells and glockenspiel droplets are accompanying each other, but once two layers of looped piano melodies and a sawtooth bass line are added, this song morphs into the strongest, exuberantly happy entity. Again, Teboul presents a cinematic track which feels like a road tune. This is Ambient music that actually works better in motion, out in the sun, either moving by foot or traveling in a vehicle. A stark contrast to Road_START, but a welcome enhancement of the formula. Suddenly, the blue sky of the front artwork makes sense. A great tune! Road_END is equally successful, but focuses on darker aspects. Its C64-like warped strings, a field recording of water and an encore of the bells are the main ingredients. However, this song is rather nasty due to its minimal drones and the Hammond Organ-like synth pulses. Wh the journey has to end in this dark is a rightful question after the technicolored Road_N4, but the endemic mood remains rather dark and tiresome all in all.

Los Angeles shuttles between two ingredients all the time: it's driven by gloomy synth pads that are tied to the feeling of the 80's, and on top of that, there's a cinematic quality which is realized with the help of catchy piano melodies and even violins. The compositions are relatively short, and the correlation between cover artwork, album title and music isn't always obvious, but the music itself is the only important thing of course, and if you're a fan of that 80's synth feeling, you'll be definitely up for Linear Bells' debut EP; even the piano notes transport that feeling of analog lo-fi equipment to the ears of the modern listener. Teboul has an ear for melodies and it will be interesting for me to see whether his minimal approach is reserved solely for this EP or if he will re-utilize this particular sound for future projects.  




Ambient Review 055: Linear Bells – Los Angeles EP (2012). Originally published on Apr. 4, 2012 at