SMOKE BELOW – ” Open For Business “

Posted: September 16, 2021 in MUSIC

‘Open For Business’ is the third LP by Australia via Baltimore trio Smoke Bellow. The effects of the pandemic loom large on this LP. The title makes reference to the Maryland governor’s motto ‘We’re Open For Business’ whilst the composition of the LP took place together, as normal, and then over email once lockdown too effect.

Meredith and Christian are originally from Brisbane and Sydney, Australia. Meredith is a social worker. Christian is a nursing student. Both play guitar and sing. Manny is from Baltimore. He drums on an irregular kit. Smoke Bellow is an exercise in pastiche, catharsis, fun and positivity. 

The group blend post punk, minimalism, highlife, psychedelia and komische. A whole range of influences come from Sly and Robbie to ESG to Steve Reich.

Transcontinental, experimental duo Smoke Bellow have been at it since 2012, relocating from Australia to Baltimore, MD & back again and then BACK AGAIN (now firmly settled in Baltimore). The duo released the “Blooming/Middling” LP in 2014, followed by “Isolation 3000” in 2018 (both on Baltimore label Ehse Records) After a line-up shuffle, they eventually recruited one of their favourite drummers and dear friend, Emmanuel Nicolaidis (Thank You, Oh Hang). which found the duo refining their sound into a dizzyingly attractive mixture of kosmiche serenity, minimalist composition, test-card psychedelia, and highlife guitar.

Half of the songs were written in a room together and the second half via email (for obvious reasons). At the time they were listening to a lot of post punk and were struck with the partnership of drums and bass as propulsive instruments. The trio started writing songs around that idea – with the rhythm as a brace to hang their decorations.

Sonically, Smoke Bellow are inspired by disparate sources. The heyday of Compass Point studios’ famed rhythm section of Sly and Robbie sustained them for months. Others included good old VU, ESG, guitar hero Zani Diabate, The Raincoats (especially their under-appreciated second album, Odyshape), the frenetic sound collisions of the Flying Lizards, the ever warm blanket of Yo La Tengo, the evolving repetition of Stereolab, the understated genius of Asa Osborne, as well as Philip Glass and Steve Reich. The David Byrne/ Robert Wilson “Knee plays” reminded them of the joy of the spoken word set to music. Lyrically, Best & McHugh drew from life in Baltimore, from isolation (again), memories of life in Melbourne, their friends and each other. “We wanted to talk about resilience and resistance.” Says Best.

Releases September 17th, 2021

Smoke Bellow are: Meredith McHugh, Christian J. Best, Emmanuel Nicolaidis

From the record “Open for Business” out September 2021 via Trouble in Mind. Video shot, edited and directed by Kari Nye and David Zimmerman.

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