wears the trousers magazine

she keeps bees: revival EP (2009)
June 16, 2009, 9:08 am
Filed under: EP, review | Tags: , , ,


She Keeps Bees
Revival EP ••••

Brooklyn duo She Keeps Bees believe that music is for healing and community and should be shared through parties and basement shows. If their new EP Revival was the product of a fantasy basement jam then it had a rather distinguished guestlist; Janis Joplin on vocals, Cat Power pushing the blues influence and Jack and Meg White banging out raw rock aggression. Recorded in the band’s apartment, Revival invites the listener to join this illustrious party for a short while. You might, however, be forgiven for feeling like an intruder, as beyond the powerful vocals, the raw, insistent intimacy of Revival is what hits you hardest. Each song, whatever the tempo, is a whispered or howled passion forced from the soul.

This soul belongs to the beautiful Jessica Larrabee – think Cher 30 years younger and gone vintage – who originally founded She Keeps Bees as a solo project before engineer, drummer, lover and soulmate Andy LaPlant joined her in 2006 to complete the hive. While Larrabee’s vocal talent may be on a par with Joplin, she has cast off any commercial, finished sheen and used her gift for a darker, primitive purpose. The music has a strong heartbeat accompanied by down-struck guitar strings, creating a sound which Larrabee will assert has moved from folk to rock as the strength and aggression of She Keeps Bees has grown with the couple’s organic connection.

A needy persistence and stubborn aggression pervade the EP. ‘Gimme’, with LaPlant’s drumbeat as its backbone, is stripped and simple. A kinetic fusion between Larrabee’s rising vocal howling and LaPlant’s deepening pulse, it culminates in Larrabee’s demand to be “worked like my back ain’t got no bone!” – desperate, seductive and impossible to ignore. We see the quieter seduction of a desirous cat in ‘Release’ and ‘Pile-Up’ as Larrabee’s vocals initially curl and weave around the simple guitar strokes. Both more up-tempo tracks, Larrabee’s voice snakes around the bars, gaining power and intensity with the heartbeat of LaPlant’s drumming until we reach explosion and exhortation: “Release! Release! Release!”

The title track, ‘Revival’, is a roughed up version of the original take from their 2006 debut Minisink Hotel and is a different incarnation from the basic demands of ‘Release’ and ‘Gimme’. Taking on a sound which is at once dark (as characterised by the metallic reverberation) yet sacred, with rhythmic clapping, simple piano and the familiar pulse from LaPlant, it’s a gritty, personal resurrection of traditional number ‘Down To The River To Pray’ as Larrabee beseeches someone to lay her down and elicits how she can see their face in those of angels. 

Experiencing the Revival EP suggests what it might be like to be forced out of the womb for a second time; leaving you damp, naked, vulnerable and exposed, just like Larrabee, and above all, alive. With a series of gigs and summer festival appearances lined up before the August release of their second album Nests (originally self-released last year), She Keeps Bees will undoubtedly get the recognition their simple, primitive perfection deserves.

Joanne Gibson
UK release date: 15/06/09; www.myspace.com/shekeepsbees


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[…] Art Of Time Ensemble featuring Sarah Slean – Black Flowers [P. Viktor 25/6] 50 She Keeps Bees – Revival EP [Joanne Gibson […]

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