The Aramaic language had an expression – Ephphatha, to be opened, as a portal. That ability to be open, to listen completely and communicate purely is at the heart of Human Bell. Dave Heumann and Nathan Bell’s gorgeous guitar duets form instrumental canvas painted in the warm colored hues of folk and rock music, and simultaneously a blank canvas for the listeners themselves to paint. Their songs are delicately crafted with an immaculate clarity, expressiveness, and most of all, openness.
Nathan Bell has recorded with more than a dozen bands in the last decade. Most known for playing bass in Lungfish from 1996 to 2003, he has also worked with P.W. Long, Mighty Flashlight, and Television Hill, an earlier version of Arbouretum. Dave Heumann has also played with Cass McCombs, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Anomoanon and Papa M, in addition to his work as leader of Arbouretum.
Dave Heumann and Nathan Bell’s work together began as each of the Baltimore natives had been working individually on instrumental pieces for banjo and guitar. For both, the experience of collaborating on the creation of instrumental music is a liberating process. The open pastoral structures allow their natural musical tendencies to shine. Nathan Bell’s songwriting, as his work with Lungfish, tends to be linear, as moving along a path through a progression of passages, while Heumann’s, as with his work in Arbouretum, is more cyclical. The intersection of those two approaches and the mutual understanding that brings them together is the essence of Human Bell.
The bulk of the Human Bell album was recorded by Paul Oldham at Rove Studios in Selbyville, Kentucky. “Ephphatha” was recorded at Nathan Bell’s house in Baltimore by Antony West. The album was mixed by John McEntire at Soma EMS in Chicago. Additional musicians included Matt Riley (The Moss Collector) with his bowed banjo, guitar, amplified kalimba, vibraphones, drum and quartz singing bowl, and Michael Turner (Warmer Milks, Speed to Roam) on guitar, at his finest on “Hanging from the Rafters.” Drums were played by Peter Townsend (Speed to Roam, Bonnie Prince Billy), except on “A Change in Fortunes,” where they were preformed by Ryan Rapsis (Euphone).