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Quietly powerful duo Bell Monks returns to Madison for a house show

Tuesday, January 14, house concert (see contact info for details), 7 p.m. Info

Photo by Eric Stetler.

Bell Monks, the duo of multi-instrumentalists Eric Sheffield and Jeff Herriott, has channeled the power of hushed moments into both song-oriented material, as on the 2016 album Big Bay, and into eerie instrumental journeys, as on Brocades + Palimpsests, a 2016 collaboration with experimental electronic musician Gregory Taylor. Whatever form it’s taking, though, Bell Monks’ music expertly sketches out a space between frosty despair and open-hearted yearning. Songs like “Hold Me Close,” from Big Bay, also benefit from the quavering baritone of Herriott’s vocals, in performances that combine raw vulnerability with just the slightest touch of grandeur. 

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On another highlight from Big Bay, “Open Song,” Sheffield’s skeletal, swinging drums, a guest vocal from Heidi Johnson, and muted harmonica from guest Brian Lucas come together to evoke the beautifully sad contemplations of Low and Mazzy Star. Bell Monks captured yet another facet of their sonic curiosity on the 2013 release Colias 1, a compilation on which Madison label Mine All Mine Records invited 25 different artists to share their takes on ambient music. Bell Monks’ entry, “Let The Waves Carry Us (Part II),” uses burbling chords and sparse, ringing guitar to strike a balance of steadfast calm and unresolved tension. 

Herriott lives in Fort Atkinson and Sheffield is currently based in upstate New York, but their musical activities as a duo have usually centered around Madison. Bell Monks will return for a January 14 house concert in the Vilas Neighborhood. (The hosts aren’t publishing the address, but anyone interested in attending can get more information by emailing [email protected].) Herriott says the duo is currently finishing up a new album that has been in the works since 2014. Bell Monks’ set here will consist of both songs and instrumentals. Two experimental duos from Madison, Woodman/Earhart and Sexe/Russell, will be playing as well.

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