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CD REVIEW: Bella Ruse - Kuhzoo (2011)

By: Neil Thomas (UK)









Artist: Bella Ruse
Album: Kuhzoo
Label: Independent Artist

Genre: Alternative Pop
Sounds Like: Regina Spektor but with guitars!
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 10/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9/10

Lyrical Content: 9/10
Best Songs: An Animal – A Natural, Complicated Rhythm
Strengths: Instrumentation, Songwriting craft, Lyrical Content

Weakness: Strange choice for a finale, very minor hiss problem on some songs




Bella Ruse are principally, Joseph Barker (guitar, piano and organ), Kay Gillette (Vocals and glockenspiel), and joined on this album by Nathan Eliot on bass guitar and Alexander Young on Drums. A quick look on the internet shows that they have a decent net presence with a dedicated website and videos and performances on YouTube – including a bizarre video for an earlier song entitled “Satan served me sandwiches”


The album is attractively packaged in a gatefold sleeve made from recycled card. Inside is a printed poster-booklet, which includes all the lyrics – always a nice touch. The CD opens with “Kazoo Song”, a very accomplished and vocally sophisticated number with a hooky vocal melody from Kay. The chorus consists of a kazoo melody, which is very carefully balanced so that it remains as a feature rather than overpowering the other instruments. The second song “An Animal, A Natural” continues the quirky feel with a rhythmic and again very catchy tune giving off an upbeat and happy vibe. I loved how the carefully worked out guitar parts interweaves the vocal. Percussion is provided for by way of stomps and hand claps as well as understated bass drum and brushes - which really impressed me, giving the song a natural organic kind of feel. Kay’s voice dances gracefully over the top of everything and she shows off her acrobatic skills effortlessly. The third song “Sea Love” is gentle, but still rhythmic – poignant and atmospheric with a beautiful electric guitar solo from Barker. There’s a dreamlike quality here and I can imagine this track playing over the rolling credits of a Hollywood blockbuster. “Complicated Rhythm” is a very simple arrangement again with a happy feel-good vibe” I’m your lover, you’re my friend, both wrapped up in a complicated rhythm” This song’s rhythm track features a typewriter throughout, cleverly used to compliment the rhythm – a lovely touch. “Black and Flowers” throws some different and difficult subject matter into the mix as Bella Ruse prove that they can be versatile and ultra sensitive and manage to keep all this within their already established style. “Dislocating” is beautifully intimate with a simple electric guitar and vocal, and whilst the lyrics are nothing short of exquisite – it was the clarity of the voice that impressed me most of all. Both voice and instrument are exposed and laid bare. You can even hear Kay’s lips smacking together between her lines. “Heart of Everyone” brings their punchy signature rhythms back with the full band, offering up another tasty and catchy upbeat song. The final track Radiohead’s “Spinning Plates” is their emotive and hauntingly atmospheric take on the song. I found it a little unexpected as a choice of finale, as all the previous songs had been so uplifting. It seems strange to end on a low note after so many highs.


The strengths of this album lie in the quality of the lyrics, the quirky and cutesy voice and hugely inventive and creative songwriting. Additionally, the style of music complimented by the style of artwork (and even the eco-packaging) culminates into a charming tactile product that is to be cherished. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but before the music buying public are forced to consume nothing but MP3s I’m going to grab hold of anything containing real and physical artwork whenever I can. And in Bella Ruse, I find another original and sustainable, quality act that I will be keeping a sharp eye on in the future - so should you!


Neil Thomas (UK)