Swirling, dark, ethereal music is the perfect soundtrack to the early dark and chilly nights of fall. There's no shortage of the stuff, but Durham-Raleigh duo Violet Bell has offered a few more tunes that do the trick with its debut EP, Dream the Wheel. Lizzy Ross's vocals are otherworldly, sharply cracking through her guitar and Omar Ruiz-Lopez's violin. On the title track, Ross breathes the EP's opening lyrics, which lead into humming violins and the echo of a plucked acoustic guitar. Behind it, "Dear One" is a thoughtful letter to an abandoned lover.
Next, "A Dawn Chorus" arrives full of outdoorsy sounds: birds chirping, an errant wind chime swaying, a babbling brook. It's relaxing, but it drops the momentum built by the two preceding tracks. Similarly, "Write My Lines" is sparse but jarring, with Ross singing in a stop-start pattern. "Acres Waltz" returns to the outdoors with owl and cricket sounds, and the song brings to mind acoustic strumming around a campfire. But with "Vampire," Violet Bell veers toward pure pop with electric guitar and picked violins matching Ross's vocals as she jumps from note to note.
Dream the Wheel seems unsure of what Violet Bell wants its sound to be: pop, nature preserve, folk? It's hard to tell. Folk fans will love the first two, nature aficionados will enjoy a couple, a pop fans will love the last track. Whether Violet Bell chooses to stay scattershot or hone a more specific sound will dictate how far it can keep going.