Who killed Laura Palmer? Who is Chrysta Bell? A detailed answer to both questions involves mentioning celebrated film director, David Lynch. Currently, Bell appears as FBI Agent Tammy Preston in the revival of Twin Peaks. However, musically her association with Lynch dates back to 1999, when they first met. Bell’s debut solo album, This Train, was co-written and produced by Lynch, who said of Bell, “The first time I saw her perform, I thought she was like an alien. The most beautiful alien ever.” Bell has just released her latest solo album, We Dissolve, produced by John Parish.
As background atmospheric sounds play through the PA, Bell takes to the stage, tall, elegant and mysterious. Immediately, she holds the attention of the audience. Some singers have excellent technical voices, while some performers have real presence. Bell combines both, in one, gorgeous package.
Bell’s style of music doesn’t readily slot into conventional musical categories. It has been described as dream pop, which gives some sense of it. It’s about creating a mood, with Bell’s vocal performance ranging from velvety smooth and hypnotic, to showcasing raw power. If you’re looking for a blistering guitar solo, look elsewhere; that’s far too distracting. Her three backing musicians enhance the mood, but never overwhelm Bell’s vocal performance.
Watching Bell perform, it’s easy to become unsure whether one is attending a gig, or instead at a Fringe drama about a beautiful and enigmatic singer. She exhibits passion and seems to lose (or is it find?) herself in the music. Performance is all.
Devil Inside Me, Heaven and Gravity (all from We Dissolve) are highlights of the first half of Bell’s set and they serve as an effective showcase for her new album. Undertow, which is not currently on any recording, really should be. Introducing the compelling Down by Babylon (from This Train), Bell says that it is a song which is very meaningful to her and she anticipates singing it for the rest of her life.
Bell returns for an encore of Swing With Me, which ends with the lyric, “I wish this night would never end.” Enthusiastic audience response indicates that this sentiment is far from being a minority view. Indeed, one might say that the audience gives Bell a ringing endorsement, as it were?