Belle Game's sophomore album Fear/Nothing, out September 8th via Arts & Crafts, saw the Vancouver band completely re-working their sound. Focusing more than ever before on the electronica they had begun to develop on their debut Ritual Tradition Habit, Fear/Nothing experiments with synth, atmospheric drums and a definite throwback to the dream pop of the 80's.
Written in basements and apartments, Fear/Nothing is about becoming at home with yourself, and for Belle Game, it was about becoming at home with each other once more. The opening track of the album is called "Shine". Setting the tone for the rest of Fear/Nothing, "Shine" begins softly, timidly. Vocalist Andrea Lo is easing into her voice. But when she's finished the first line, it becomes apparent that there is something Other in her voice this time. It's deeper, more powerful, wider. "It's not enough, it's never enough." Indeed, as Lo sings these words on "Shine", she seems to be reaching for the stars; slow-motion climbing her way to the heavens. This is where Fear/Nothing lives — somewhere in between the earth and the sky. Not quite among the stars, but ever reaching for them.
Lo keeps on climbing, her voice reaching new heights as the track changes effortlessly from "Shine" to "Spirit", the first single from the album and another absolute highlight. "Spirit" is a vocal triumph. Lo reveals of the album: "A theme that's constantly touched upon, in a very broad and universal sense, is the nature of duality in life, and how these things all somehow, maddeningly so, coexist with each other…it fucks with your head, that's the way life goes. "
At times aggressive and abrasive in both lyric and instrumentation, the album has a unique balance to it. Fear/Nothing has an inherent duality in the music; nothing is ever one-note or the same. It flip flops, like life is wont to do, between ethereal bliss and heavy, jolting percussion. "Bring Me" is one such abrasive track. It's dark lyric "bring me shame, bring me pain, fuck me the same" is married with the aforementioned 80's dream pop sound, creating a brash contrast between sound and vision. It's a song about getting back up when you're down. There is a beautiful sentiment of refusing to let other people dictate your experiences.
And then, once again just as in life, the abrasiveness and the triumph-out-of-turmoil sentiment on "Bring Me" and "Low" comes crashing down in the frantic "High". The beat is scattered and the underwater quality to Lo's vocal is all at once a good trip and a bad one. "High" paints a picture of life's high's and its lows, and how they come sometimes all at once, hitting us like freight trains.
"It's not some message of 'everything's great,' or 'everything's terrible,'" keyboardist Katrina Jones says of Fear/Nothing. "It's about co-existing with all those parts of yourself, and still moving on in the face of what might hold you back. It's just about continuing to move forward, and living with all the aspects of yourself."
Risk-taking is how good art is created. Belle Game took a risk with Fear/Nothing. When you have a formula that works (Ritual Tradition Habit was met with critical acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone), it is sometimes hard to break the chain and move outside of that formula. Belle Game have nothing to fear. This album is a triumph for a band who took a leap of faith, hoping they would fly; and fly they do. Fear/Nothing sits wonderfully in its own little space between worlds; it is pastel dream pop colliding with dark lyrics and deep wells of sound.
Purchase Fear/Nothing via Arts & Crafts