[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
By the time you finish playing this record all the leaves outside will have fallen, all the trees will be mute and the streets will be empty. This is what gets played when you are completely alone and happy to be so; when you look out your window over the canal and see the city lights drowning in it a slight smile of recognition graces your lips. As the wind whips up across your field of vision you watch mutely from behind the glass.
Maybe you’ve heard Thomas Bel before and maybe you haven’t; you’re going to remember who he is after hearing these twelve tracks and that I guarantee. Some moments in life demand to be put down in sound otherwise they’ll be lost forever; our composer has many things on his mind but sunny dispositions and cheerful surroundings are not on that list. No, he dwells in a silent and solitary realm where memories do not fade and pain is ever present just behind a person’s eyes.
I knew his work to be primarily of an ambient nature (he has another record coming out on Invisible Birds so pay attention) but over the course of his last EP and a digital single he has shifted course. Out into darker waters he drifts, into the deeper and more remote regions of song craft he ventures; have no worries, his style is direct and to the point. You don’t ever have to wonder what the reasoning is behind any of these, it’s really quite simple:
Despair. Sadness. Abandonment. Regret.
Thomas’ pieces are kept on the shorter side but his arrangements are first rate while the playing he demonstrates is all his own. Literally. No one else came in and walked him through this process, he did it by himself, probably in secret. If anybody knew why they were hearing those mournful notes out of his guitar through the walls then they opted to remain mute… hidden in his tower with only the shadows to keep him company.
With little in the way of equipment and even less in the way of production capabilities, Thomas Bel proves once more that if you have talent and the vision to see it through then you can overcome just about anything. Therein lies the irony as ‘This is Funeral Folk’ is not about redemption or zeal or much of anything besides surrender to -and the acceptance of- a hateful fate. Study the cover of this release if you require further convincing but don’t linger too long because the day is fading fast.