Dawn Chorus #17: The Leaf Library – The World is a Bell

Dawn Chorus #17: The Leaf Library – The World is a Bell

North London’s The Leaf Library make a welcome return with second album The World is a Bell, full of warm experimental drone-pop with fantastical details with which to draw the listener in. It’s an absolute fit for this time of year as the darkness creeps in on colder air and it’s our album of the day today. 

Dawn Chorus header - a recommended album every week day

The Leaf Library The World is a Bell album coverArtist: The Leaf Library
Album: The World is a Bell
Label: WIAIWYA
Year of release: 2019 (due for release 25/10/19)
Genre: drone-pop, dreampop, experimental pop, ambient post-rock

The first cold day of the waning year makes itself known on your skin, your breath a cloud in the air, the light a soft drift of pastel colours. Feet stamp, collars pop, hands thrust deep but for all the defiant movement against it the cold still makes itself known.

It seems forever dawn yet forever dusk, and all the hours in between but mirrors for the start and the end. Lost among them you have the space and time to become immersed in the astonishing ambience of The Leaf Library‘s The World is a Bell. And it is an album which deserves your time, your attention and a willingness to let it make you think and feel, open yourself to letting it connect to the seasons which rise and fall within you even as the outer world imprints the winter chill upon flushed cheeks and into dewy eyes.

This is ambient post-rock done exactly right – it does not insist you listen, there is nothing bolshy or entitled about the way it comes to you, but rather wins your attention and gently encourages you to come closer with your curiosity. An album of immense melodic warmth as well as cool clarity there is little better than sinking into it, cocoon yourself in its sound and the images they conjure, let each detail curl fascinating and ephemeral before dissipating into the next. When the world seem so abrasive this is an album with the edges softened but its substance intact.

The natural and organic feel of the album builds from the same atmosphere on 2015’s debut Daylight Versions. The circular, cyclical patterns are found again throughout but most obviously on the sombre, almost sinister, instrumental closer of ‘Paper Boats on Black Ink Lake’. The very title of this track pushes imagery into your head, makes you breath again the cold air of autumn as low sun shimmers blindingly on water, and something pulses in your periphery. It’s an ominous end to what is for the most part a sparkling album, the melancholy of the debut brightening toward apricity.

Let us not skip to the end too fast though for there is much to explore and find ourselves owned by before we get anywhere near the finale. The brief description of this record sent with the tracks lists off the sounds to be found: ‘pulsing electronics, chiming guitars, minimalist piano, acoustic and synthesised drones, noise, improv and intricate brass and string arrangements’. Opener ‘In Doors and Out Through Windows’ works it’s way casually through the list under sparse poetic lyrics full of repeating refrains. You float within this song, water lapping around you and face turned upward to an indifferent sky, it’s too late by the time you realise it’s calmly pulled you out into deeper water and there is nothing to be done but to let the rest of the album take you further.

Title track ‘The World is a Bell’ begins with alternating notes which at once conjure the dripping of not-long-passed rain from leaves bending beneath the weight, and on some other level – a more fearful place – the test sounds of some forthcoming human ruination. As strings take over it is to encourage a racing of thoughts and a slowing of movement, everything is expanding and understanding is held as a future promise by this track. That nudge toward something slightly sinister, something verging toward decay, comes again on ‘Bodies Carried Off by Bees’. Warm tones punctuate but the over-riding scratchiness, the consistent drone only makes their distance more noticeable. But the album takes you in its embrace again, soothes those worries and smoothes the creases from you, as ‘The Endless’ bubbles and chimes around you.

With a wonderful disregard for the modern expectation of instant gratification and the current trend for the song, this is a cohesive collection which is so much greater when taken as such rather than broken down into its constituent parts. Accomplished, assured, and absolutely essential listening. Not only does The World is a Bell deserve serious consideration in end of year lists but is a brilliantly considered addition to the band’s catalogue and should further secure a reputation as masters of their craft, delivering beautifully on an expansive creative vision.

Find The Leaf Library

Dawn Chorus is a week day feature sharing an album to listen to on your morning commute, the school run, or at other times with the intention of surfacing classics you might not have given time to yet, indulging in old favourites, and helping you discover the best of new releases. If you’d like to suggest an album for the feature, or contribute a guest write up on an album you think more people should hear, get in touch

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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