Just when you thought that the mine was close to being tapped out, along comes a hidden gem to renew your faith in the unlimited resources that await a determined musical prospector. “Luz Bel,” a 1991 album from the little-known Spanish combo Bélver Yin, is that kind of record. Originally released on Noisex Music, “Luz Bel” has been unearthed by Efficient Space, the Melbourne label helmed by Michael Kucyk of the long-running (now sadly defunct) freeform radio show Noise in My Head. Remastered by renowned Aussie studio whiz Mikey Young, it’s a gorgeous and hyper-emotive collection of instrumental tunes that sounds fully of its time, yet feels just about right in our current environment of semi-isolation.
First, a bit of backstory. Bélver Yin was the creation of Salamanca musicians Pedro Ortega Sánchez (guitar) and José María Martín (bass), who quickly went to work writing introspective and melancholy music that shimmers like the gentlest of bioluminescent waves. “Luz Bel” was the result. The album was favorably reviewed by the Spanish music press, yet sales didn’t materialize and the band faded into obscurity, even with the release of two more albums in subsequent years. It’s possible that the poignancy that runs throughout the album might have felt slightly out of out of step with the joy that was still running through post-Franco Spain; it could be that the record simply never found its way into the hands of those who enjoy a bit of moodiness now and then. Whatever the case, if you like swooning melodies, shimmering guitar chords and chorused basslines, all swathed in blankets of reverb, there’s a good chance you’ll love “Luz Bel.”
Bélver Yin certainly has a distinct sound, but it’s not without precedent. Thanks to the occasional use of a vaguely Peter Hook-esque bassline, there are hints of early-’80s New Order, at least if New Order ever found themselves in a particularly loose-limbed and dewy-eyed mood. But more precisely, there are echoes of the romantic dream-pop of bands like the Chameleons and Cocteau Twins. You could comfortably imagine Liz Fraser’s celestial tones weaving their way around gently gliding tracks like “Faints” and “ La Vida Está en Otra Parte.”
For some, perhaps those without a fondness for reflective lazy-day ambles, that lack of vocals might relegate the music to background material, the kind of stuff that might work well the incidental music in a particularly heartrending John Hughes teen weepy. (But really, is that such a bad thing?) For the rest of us, ‘Luz Bell’ will feel like a warm and welcoming embrace, a moment of contemplation amidst our turbulent times.