Vancouver’s The Belle Game’s “Ritual Tradition Habit” Beautiful, Haunting

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BG_RTH_6Pannel_PrintGreyFinal.inddIt’s hard to really compare Vancouver’s The Belle Game to any other bands that have come on the scene lately (Austra mixed with Adaline are possibilities) but to our benefit, their new album Ritual Tradition Habit is full of some beautiful, haunting unique tracks.

Lead by Andrea Lo, the five-piece (Adam Nanji, Katrina Jones, Alex Andrew and Rob Chursinoff) has quietly released two EPs and opened for other up-and-coming artists like Gotye, Said the Whale and Karkwa. Ritual Tradition Habit has the polished sound of a band that has been around the block and knows what they want, how they sound best, and how to get there. Lo’s gorgeous voice is given centre stage, encouraged by echoing guitars and strong percussion. While the music can be dark at times, it’s never too intense or scary¬† – the lyrics and vocals keep the music a little soft, avoiding the harshness that can come with other bands like This Hisses (not a knock, it totally works for them).

Ritual Tradition Habit refers to three songs on the album, all quite short (“Ritual” is the longest, clocking in at 2:18) and act as interludes, bringing the listener to dark and abstract places. The record does play with light however, most notably on the first single “Wait Up For You” and to a lesser extent the second one, “Wasted Light”. The songs are almost danceable, although Lo plays coy and controls the energy on the tracks as she sees fit. The rousing chorus on “Wait Up For You” is a lot of fun, and it would be great to dance to at a place like the Commodore Ballroom.

Second track “River” is positively striking, with Lo’s vocals getting full attention with only a weeping electric guitar to accompany her for the first few lines to a beautiful effect. In fact, I’d dare say that the band’s sound is strongest on this track, breaking away from the more classic song framework and playing with levels of intensity. I’m a little surprised this wasn’t a single, since I liked it by far the best on the whole album.

Overall, it’s a great record. I’m glad to see so many new bands with strong frontwomen lately, and The Belle Game is no exception. What sets it apart is the band’s sense of experimentation while keeping with how they know they sound best – a difficult balance for some. Ritual Tradition Habit drops on April 16th on iTunes and local record stores. They’ll be playing at Victoria’s Upstairs Cabaret on April 25th, and Vancouver’s Rio Theatre on April 27th, both with Hannah Georges.

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