Sandra Bell has been writing and performing songs for more than three decades now. Time to look back at the beginning and make some of those songs available to the public once again. The songs came out on obscure cassettes or compilations and have been out of print for what seems like an eternity.
Poetry has always been one of Sandra Bell’s core interests. As a child, Sandra Bell listened to the wind and the birds in the trees, to her grandmother singing blues and to karanga and waiata on the marae, and she started plonking about on the piano early on. However, it was as a performance poet that she originally cut her performance artist’s teeth.
As a young woman, she spent some time in London with a group called Worthless Words and continued her career back in Auckland with the New Poets, who included David Eggleton and John Pule. Early influences were the works of James K. Baxter and Dylan Thomas.
She never stopped writing poetry, but Sandra Bell’s involvement in the Australian/New Zealand Sculptural Week helped her find another focus for her creativity. It was the song Industrial Nite, conceived with Merlene Chambers on guitar and Dianne Civil on drums in 1984, that was the beginning of a great singer-songwriting career, although Sandra Bell’s very first release was Two Metallic Hearts, an Industrial Tapes cassette release of the same year that featured Meiko Enomoto and Residue in Beirut. Both songs are included here, as is Industrial Night, which featured on the 12” Black Birds that came out on Volcanic Productions in 1986 and included here in its entirety.
Sandra Bell’s music developed and evolved over the years, from more “song writerish” to “gothic electric”, a fine example for the latter being Gilt, released on the IMD compilation Disturbed in 1995. In the 80’s, major musical influences for Sandra Bell were other acts of the Auckland scene, such as Marie and the Atom , Kiwi Animal, and This is Heaven; when Sandra Bell later moved to Dunedin, she was inspired by Suka, Bruce Blücher and others.
Aureole makes songs and recordings accessible again that seemed to have been lost to music followers’ keen interest. The tape covers Sandra Bell’s formative years and arches well into the nineties, just before she travelled to Berlin to begin yet another chapter in her biography as an artist and as a person.
Thokei Tapes has climbed down the wobbly stairs into long-forgotten vaults and resurfaced with 14 true gems that include some of them finest examples of Sandra Bell’s song writing and poetry. Among them, there is a number of real rarities even old friends of the artist may have never had a chance to listen to. Let’s be honest, have you ever heard of the Underground EP cassette At The Place and The Retreat were culled from?
Sandra Bell has been a unique inspirational artist and a core member of the NZ art scene since the eighties. Somebody labelled her “the Kim Gordon of New Zealand” on Facebook. However flattering that epithet may be, Sandra Bell is first and foremost Sandra Bell, as anyone listening to Aureole, an invaluable collection that spans more than a decade’s worth of that prolific artist’s work, is about to find out.