Analogue Music | Andrew Belle - Nightshade
Andrew Belle - Nightshade

Andrew Belle - Nightshade

Artist: Andrew Belle · Written by Matt Conner

Date Released

20 August, 2021


33 minutes

Andrew Belle's latest has everything and nothing to do with classic R.E.M.

If you've caught the last couple albums from singer-songwriter Andrew Belle, you know he's found an affecting home in a synth-centric sound that shifted sonic gears away from acoustic-heavy early hits like "The Ladder." His 2013 release Black Bear set the stage for the shift and 2017's Dive Deep waded deeper into the sounds and samples he was clearly interested in.

These albums worked a sort of twilight magic on the listener, a sort of all-encompassing environment in which Belle's relational analogies and spiritual allegories swirled overhead and swam underneath to the beat of the hypnotic melodies that carried them. In short, listening to Andrew Belle feels akin to night swimming, although the classic R.E.M. favorite (from Automatic for the People) is not even remotely musically related.

Belle's approach has featured more style than substance in recent years and that's certainly the case on Nightshade, the fourth full-length album from the Chicago-based artist. That's not a knock on any lyrical content here; rather it's the way the scales naturally tip when so quickly enveloped in songs like "Spectrum" or the title track. Each track sets a darker mood yet floats through with an ethereal lightness, quite the balancing act that Belle has perfected at this point

Belle's roots as an artist mining for acoustic hooks comes through even on some synth-laden tracks like lead single "My Poor Heart," which was co-written with Brian Fennell (SYML). Elsewhere, echoes of Thom Yorke can be found on the percussive hook of "Inside Voices," while "Numbers" sounds a bit like a David Bazan number. Nothing strays too far from the aforementioned feel of Nightshade, and it all works as a cohesive whole even as it adds interesting layers to the mix.

Belle's best work is found in the moments in which he allows a song to sit with some space, such as "You're the Sea." Here, the slowly unfolding arrangement is given time to do its work on the listener, and its restrained beauty is the ideal way to close the album.

At this point, Belle has definitely carved out a defined sound all his own, mixing a sort of stirring-to-haunting synth environ with a bedroom intimacy that easily invites the listener in. Nightshade is steeped in these familiar waters, and fans of Belle's earlier work will be happy once again.