Feature: Harlow Lake – “Bell and Jewel”

Bell and Jewel” is the second teaser from Harlow Lake‘s upcoming second album, Valley of Teeth, scheduled to be released next Friday, March 12.

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Taking influence from the worlds of both art rock and progressive rock, “Bell and Jewel” wears its influences of Radiohead, The Mars Volta, and King Crimson on its sleeve, while making the vast scale of said influences sound cohesive and new.

The general quietness of “Bell and Jewel”, especially for a rock song, is reminiscent of the first half of “2 + 2 = 5” from Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, with “bell and Jewel” being quite serene in contrast to the unnerving tension of “2 + 2 = 5”, while the light effects on the drums feel reminiscent of those found on In Rainbows.

The unorthodox and off-kilter pulse is something you would associate with acts of very high technical mastery such as Robert Fripp (of King Crimson) or Rush. As Harlow Lake (born Shane O’Leary) cites King Crimson as an influence, it is safe to assume that Fripp is an influence behind the beat not sounding like a feeling straight, even during the chorus.

Most curiously (and in a surprisingly good way), the unorthodoxically spacy guitar work is more reminiscent of that of late Siouxsie and the Banshees guitarist John McGeoch, than that of Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood or Omar Rodríguez-López of The Mars Volta, both of which have cited the Banshees as influences.

Anyone music fans unfamiliar with the Banshees’ early-80s work, especially songs like “Arabian Knights” or “Israel”, would likely think of The Mars Volta first when comparing the guitar work, but the influence of McGeoch (whether intentional or not) is definitely there.

Speaking about the meaning behind the “Bell and Jewel”, the Cork-based musician said it was largely a byproduct of meditation practices he was doing at the time:

“I wrote this during a time I was doing a lot of intensive meditation practices, and having very intense weird experiences throughout my normal day as a result of it. The chorus part’s a funny one, because I originally wrote it about someone I felt was such a prick, yet cunning, that they’d be the type to get away with murder.

And even though I didn’t end up writing the rest of the song about this person I decided to keep this section in, cause I felt what I saw in them must also be in me too. If you spot it you got it kind of thing. The shadow side of myself. So in a nutshell the song’s about learning to be aware of all the different parts of myself. The good, the bad and the ugly.”

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Valley of Teeth follows Harlow Lake’s 2020 debut album Lilac and Lily, a release centred on a hybrid of stripped-down folk and electronica.

Adam Gibbons
Adam Gibbons

Adam Gibbons is a journalist, photographer, blogger, and poet, who primarily writes on music, travel, and mental health. Check out his blog, "Mad for Notepads".

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