Trembling Bells was a Scottish folk rock group that was formed in 2008 and based in Glasgow, until the band ultimately split up in 2018. After about 10 years together, the band had six full-length albums, an EP, and numerous tours under their belt, but the members of the band wanted to pursue some solo projects. An article on the band from PopMatters.com describes the band as psychedelic folk reminiscent of The Incredible String Band and Fairport convention, with bit of Americana as well. This album, Carbeth (2009), was the group’s debut album, and the album is has the tags of experimental, folk rock, psychedelic, and Glasgow on the album’s Bandcamp listing. I’ve been really enjoying western European folk music lately, and I quite enjoy psychedelic folks acts from the late 1960s and early 1970s, so I’m pretty stoked to give this album a listen. With that said, I’m going to jump on into the music.
“I Listed All of the Velvet Lessons” begins immediately with what sounds to be a bass-y horn, a concertina or similar instrument, organs, and possibly a violin that all combine for a sweet, folksy symphony that almost feels like the UK equivalent to the American psychedelic folk band known as Espers. Oh wow, I really dig the vocals. Holy smokes, a second layer of vocals is introduced that creates a sort of psychedelic echo effect as the soundscape seems to continue to swell. I’m really digging the mixture of the organs and the bass-y drones from something like a concertina that seem to gently move the soundscape forward in a manner that almost reminds me of the droning tones in krautrock songs. Holy smokes, the melody changes up and seems to harken back to older, traditional western European folk tunes while continuing with the sort of peaceful psychedelia that’s been introduced thus far. Great track, and I’m excited to hear more.
Oh wow, “I Took to You (Like Christ to Wood)” begins with an almost chaotic medley of sounds that seem to include some sweet, folksy elements and what almost sounds some experimental distortion for a moment reminiscent of groups from the late 1960s like The United States of America. Oh wow, I really dig the electric guitar in this track. Holy smokes, the flavors in the track almost seem like some sort of folksy rework of modern r&b and neo-psychedelic groups like Proxima Parada. Oh wow, the female vocalist has come into the soundscape with some really sweet and light falsetto lines that I’m really digging. Oh wow, the track seems to deconstruct a bit into experimental psychedelic territory, again in a manner that reminds me of The United States of America. Holy smokes, I really dig the resolution back to the sweet, folksy lines after the chaotic movement. I really dig the use of the trumpet/brass horn in this track. Oh wow, the organs come in and seem to echo the brass horn really nicely. Oh wow, an experimental electric guitar comes in and seems to follow along the same lines as the horn and organs, which reminds me a ton of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” from his performance at Woodstock. Wow, great track.
Oh wow, “When I Was Young” starts out with a sweet, falsetto vocal line from the female vocalist, which is soon joined by some really sweet guitar work that has a sort of psychedelic style that’s once again reminiscent of a folksy version of Proxima Parada. Oh wow, the track continues building on itself really nicely as the instrumentation and vocals gradually intensify. The chorus almost reminds me of “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas. Holy smokes, I’m really reminded of some of the psychedelic rock groups from the later 1960s mixed with a sort of western European folk sound. I really dig the chorus of the track, as the electric guitar, bass, organs, drums, and vocals all seem to come together to bring a sort of folksy crescendo to the soundscape. Great track.
Oh wow, “The End Is the Beginning Born Knowing” has an almost NOLA feel with the use of horns at the start that I’m really digging. Oh wow, the drums, organs, and raw guitar sounds bring about a sort of psychedelic garage rock feel circa 1966 that I’m really digging. Oh wow, the horns are back in and remind a bit of MarchFourth, a modern funky New Orleans band that I listened to a little while ago. Oh wow, there’s a really groovy syncopation in the drums for a moment that I really dig. This is super interesting, as the track almost seems to meet at the intersection of British folk rock and 1960s psychedelic garage rock, and that intersection is for some reason located in New Orleans. Great track.
Oh wow, “Summer’s Waning” begins with a pleasant, mellow sound from the combination of the easy-going bass notes, the warm piano, and the super sweet vocal lines. Oh wow, the organs come in and lightly drone in the background as the track continues along. Oh wow, some percussion is added to the track, taking the form of what sounds to be a spacious, airy drum kit, and some high notes on what could be a xylophone. Oh wow, I really dig the way the instrumentation seems to pause for a moment and add a dramatic air to the soundscape as the song nears its end. Super sweet track.
Oh wow, “Willows of Carbeth” starts out with a slow sort of gallop from some chords played on an electric guitar that almost have a sort of wetness to them that I’m really digging. Oh wow, more layers are continually added to join the soundscape, including another electric guitar that seems to accentuate the electric guitar that was already in the soundscape, a mellow bass, a warm brass horn of some sort, and a super sweet violin. Oh wow, I really dig the bass line in this track, which easily grooves the soundscape along underneath the main guitar and seemingly next to the drums. I really dig how the soundscape seems to become more western European folk-oriented during the chorus. Super sweet tune.
Oh wow, “Your Head Is the House of Your Tongue” has a really pleasant, dynamic feel as the main vocal line and electric guitar line seem to alternate with some sweet background vocals and some different guitar work. Oh wow, the track mellows out really nicely as the soundscape continues along, almost making it seem like the group is playing a sweet lullaby for you under the stars in an old English countryside with some sweet vocal harmonizations, spacious and deep bass drums that are accentuated by a tambourine and some gently rolling cymbals, some super sweet guitar work that seems to be accentuated by a violin at times. Oh wow, the track seemingly effortlessly segues back into the beginning movement, which almost feels celebratory in nature after following the mellower movement. Great tune.
“Garlands of Stars” begins with some super sweet vocals from the female vocalist that seem to near a falsetto registry, which are accompanied by some mellow guitar chords that seem to have a sort of serious, folksy sound that I’m really digging. Oh wow, the track moves into a more experimental movement as one of the guitars picks up a sort of nearly crunchy, psychedelic distortion that I really dig. Oh wow, the track switches back to the mellower intro movement, and then switches back to the sort of experimental psychedelic movement again. Oh wow, the soundscape seems to become chaotic in a super sweet way for the outro. Super sweet tune.
Oh wow, “Seven Years a Teardrop” begins with a-cappella vocal harmonizations between the male and female vocalists that seem to be slightly offset at times. Oh wow, the contrast in timbres between the two vocal lines almost serves as a sort of psychedelic lullaby to finish off the album. I really dig how peaceful this track is, and after the experimental psychedelic rock sounds from the previous track, the song seems even sweeter. Great tune, and a great way to finish up the album.
Holy smokes, I’m glad I check out Trembling Bells tonight, and I really want to check out more of the group’s discography soon. I found myself thinking of a number of groups from different decades as I listened, including the sort of experimental psychedelic rock nature of The United States of America from the late 1960s, as well as the British folk rock stylings of Steeleye Span from the early 1970s. I was also reminded of New Orleans-based groups like MarchFourth with the use of the horns throughout the album, as well as the sort of modern r&b and neo-psychedelic stylings of groups like Proxima Parada at different times during the listening experience as well. If you’re into British folk rock groups from the early 1970s like Steeleye Span, as well as psychedelic sounds from both modern groups and groups from the late 1960s, then you might want to consider checking out this album. If you do decide to give this album a listen, then I sincerely do hope that you enjoy the listening experience at least as much as I did.