The Bells of 1 2 is among the greatest indie rock albums you’ve never heard. I have yet to meet a Sol Seppy fan here in the states, though based on her Myspace play count it is safe to say she has a fanbase somewhere out there.
Former Sparklehorse member Sol Seppy (Sophie Michalitsianos) is a classically trained Australian living in the UK who writes, sings and performs all of her own music. To top it off, she recorded her incredible-sounding debut herself in her home studio (though mixing is credited to both Paul Antonel and herself).
I hesitate to call this album “rock” because half the songs feature only piano and vocals. I hesitate to label it “singer/songwriter” because it is so beautifully orchestrated, layered and produced into something enormous. I hesitate to say her slow songs are “ballads” because they come from a completely different emotional space than any ballad I’ve ever heard before.
I hesitate to use these labels because they connote a familiar emotional content, where Sol Seppy’s brilliance lies in her ability to seem at once down-to-earth and other-worldly. While the stripped-down arrangements and soft vocals constitute a very vulnerable and human element, ambient piano and sparse chords, particularly Sus2 and Maj7(no3), make her music seem aloof or foreign: shoegaze for the 21st century.
The album’s mood swings between slow, brooding-yet-hopeful piano and kitschy synth-pop reminiscent of television commercials for compact cars. (The chorus to “Come Running,” for example, calls to mind an Audi being driven on the side of a snow-covered mountain.)
In my personal favorite, “Slo Fuzz,” Sol Seppy takes the most cliché of all the scales, C major, and creates something that is at once beautiful, amazing and tragic, like a lone astronaut projected into the atmosphere.
Only about half of the tracks have drums and they are programmed, though convincingly real at times (particularly the track “Come Running”). On the songs without percussion, she forgoes a click track altogether, using tempo changes as a form of dynamics.
The Bells of 1 2 has received little critical recognition, excepting a 7.1 rating on Pitchfork and her song “Gold” being featured on the CBS series Without a Trace. Sol Seppy has not updated her Myspace page in about six months, so we can only hope her new album will be finished soon.
Buy The Bells 1 2 directly from her independent label, Gronland Records (CD or MP3).