Texan singer Chrysta Bell first came to my notice when she played Agent Tammy Preston in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks:The Return.  CB, as she is known to her band mates, first met Lynch in 1999 and they have worked together on a number of musical projects including her debut solo album This Train and a 5 track EP Somewhere In The Nowhere, both of which were co-written and produced by Lynch.

 

Last year saw the release of Chrysta Bell’s most recent album We Dissolve, produced by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, featuring guest musicians Adrian Utley (Portishead), Geoff Downes (Buggles, Yes, Asia) and Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))). Having toured the album and stopped at The Voodoo Rooms last year, a show I regrettably missed, she’s back here again to play to a capacity crowd.

Abstract images of trees and stone play on the rear of the stage accompanying a taped soundscape.  Chrysta Bell takes to the stage, twisting and turning; not so much dancing as being inhabited by the music around her. A massive snare hit from drummer Jayson Altman scares me out of my skin and we’re off into the first song, 52 Hz.   Immediately, I wonder if CB might actually stand for Charisma in Bucketloads, as Chrysta Bell certainly has it.  It seems unlikely though; I don’t think bucketloads is a particularly Texan expression.

More plausibly, it could also stand for Confidently Beautiful as CB is nothing if not poised, elegant and, it has to be said, stunningly attractive.  Setting that aside, her voice is equally stunning; capable of a tender whisper one minute and a shrieking roar the next.  As guitarist Jon Sanchez carves out layers of vibrato-soaked chords and baritone bass string twangs, I’m reminded of another Twin Peaks special agent: Chester Desmond, or more specifically the actor and singer who played him, Chris Issak; were Issak’s songs to be steeped in a barrel of quaaludes and ketamine and hung out to dry.

In a set that moves from keening, yearning dream-poppy songs of desire to primordial, swampy rock and roll thrashcore driven by bassist Chris Smart, Chrysta Bell and her band provide an unforgettable evening.  In the final song Swing With Me, CB sings: “I wish this night would never end”.  Yeah, me too; but end it must. I’m already looking forward to Chrysta Bell:The Return.

Setlist 

52 Hz

Devil Inside Me

Night Ride

Friday Night Fly

Somewhere In The Nowhere

Blue Rose

We Dissolve

Beat The Beat

Undertow

Down By Babylon

Real Love

Sycamore Trees / This Train

Everest

Beautiful

Planet Wide

Swing With Me

John Scott

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