Kalbells began as a side project for Kalmia Traver, who also contributes to the joyous, rocking chaos of Rubblebucket. Three years after the debut album Ten Flowers, a more ambient invocation of untapped self-creativity, the sophomore LP was designed to maximize the synergy that Bess, Brecher, Pedinotti, and Traver manifest. Over the course of 2019, Traver planned several week-long intervals of writing a song a day, and, surprising herself, she was writing a lot of love songs. That year she experienced acute heartbreak, but her heart organ “felt bigger than it had ever been.” Similar to energy conservation, it seems that the lost love that influenced Traver’s writing was transferred elsewhere. Rather she invested in the formidable love with her touring band turned bandmates, and they birthed songs that capture the vibrancy of their collective.
Kalbells sophomore album Max Heart (NNA Tapes, 2021) opens with the process of regeneration. “I’m rotting and I’m never coming back the way you knew me then,” Traver sings with a combination of buoyancy and resilience on the opener “Red Marker.” From the beginning, Max Heart is an illustration of death and rebirth; letting go of what doesn’t serve us in order to leave space for the blessings that do. With Max Heart as their next chapter, central to Kalbells work is the process of creativity giving space for vulnerability and radicalism–continually practicing decolonization work and fighting against white supremacist, heternormative, and patriarchal models. Take their pre-show vocal improv practice of tintinnabulation (introduced by sometimes-drummer and honorary member Dandy McDowell) which Traver explains is “more about listening than it is about vocalizing; it’s more about creating that ecosystem together of trust and respect and interplay and play and joy. I think that that practice is definitely at the center of our work together.” Angelica Bess, Zoë Brecher, Sarah Pedinotti and Traver used this collection of ten tracks to embody prosperity and reciprocity.
Max Heart is a portrait of the badass women of the band harnessing their improvisational magic. They dispel any sexist assumption about jamming. “When we play grooves together it’s like some spiritual experience. It’s really empowering,” Traver says. “I think, there’s an unspoken thing that women don’t groove. That men groove and women are the singers and that our groove would be not viable or not as cool,” Traver explains. “Once we’re all together it’s like frickin sparks fly.” Common groove language is a rare medicine to happen across, which is why, as a group, playing with each other has been not only exciting, but restorative. “Kalbells is a living, breathing, healing, grooving movement,” Pedinotti beams. Max Heart harnesses this magnetic power for a collection of songs that are packed with inspired tension and daring surreality.
Erica Eso is a Brooklyn and Kingston, NY-based project led by composer / vocalist / producer Weston Minissali. Minissali has participated in New York’s music scene for more than decade as a member of projects like avant-rock post-pop band Cloud Becomes Your Hand (Northern Spy, Feeding Tube) and chimeric musique concrète experimentalists VaVatican (NNA Tapes), while his work at the head of Erica Eso has manifested with varied ensembles on albums including 2019 (Ramp Local, 2015) and 129 Dreamless GMG (NNA Tapes, 2018). Minissali’s music under the Erica Eso banner fuses compositional strategies of the avant garde, including the use of microtonal note voicings and advanced synthesis, with songwriting in the vein of art pop. His lush, tightly structured songs teem with melismatic topline melodies, layered vocal harmonies, and fast-shifting narrative arcs, all built over a sturdy instrumental foundation. 192, the first Erica Eso release with Hausu Mountain, captures the project in the quintet formation that solidified in 2017 and rigorously rehearsed in the years that followed. Their recordings and the live shows from this period, which culminated in their final performance in this configuration in October of 2019, document the music of Erica Eso at a peak of live band complexity and near telepathic collaborative energy, giving life to Minissali’s music with a more solidified ensemble of hands and voices than ever before.