Reviews

“Gorgeously creepy”

Miranda Sawyer, The Observer

“Beautiful rich melodies are never far away, summoned up by her skilled, gripping fingers. Man, I bet she could open a jar of pickles just by looking at it. Remarkable sonic textures rub up against each other to the extent that the instrument's true voice is unleashed - she makes her instrument speak in tongues”

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector

“Excellent!”

Mark Russell, BBC Radio 3

“If anyone really does live by those Things To Do Before You Die lists, slot 'see Bela Emerson live’ somewhere into the top 50”

Julian Owen, Venue magazine

“Haunting”

Time Out London

“Bela hurls her sampled electric cello virtuosity between two processors in a manner that could shatter protons in a head-on collision…a freewheeling engine of grinding physical energy”

Sonny Chaplin, Brighton Life

“A skilled and eclectically minded performer”

Boomkat

“Adding to the recipe with a gradually built tension which she chopped up real time, causing patterns/shapes/beats and infinitesimal scrapes to fall over each other and become orphaned, lost in a yummy and incredibly rhythmic jostle. Absolutely beautiful: a real pleasure to watch”

Rottenmeats

“Cello-wielding electronica sorceress”

Pirate Ship Quintet

“Scouring”

Plan B

“Dense, complex and elegant, with great musicality and attention to detail”

Milk Factory

“The music has re-centered me, re-aligned and re-fueled my physical, spiritual and emotional self, my life”

Stuart Flynn/Dear Britch

“She is just absolutely fabulous!”

TERZ

“When the performance finished, the audience looked as if struggling to come back to the reality they had been beforehand. Truly, Bela manages to transcend the ordinary and offer a journey through sounds and music that most contemporary artists fail to achieve”

LucidSawnDream

“Layers of gorgeous, mesmerising, rumbling hooks”

Ladyfest Newcastle

“Bela is our very own UK leftfield cello virtuoso: strings and energy collide in a blissful wall of sounds”

Anna Moulson, Melting Vinyl

“Bela Emerson is part force of nature, part force of electrical engineering, and utterly extraordinary. Hanging from a chair, balanced by the neck of an electric cello, she swoops over her effects board like a Gulliveress over the lives of Lilliputians, the eight switches commencing to dance, roar, sigh and scream at her command. Motifs rise and fall in bewitchingly complex patterns, only to re-emerge in scrambled form further down. It’s spontaneous music of extreme beauty and power”

Venue magazine

“Darker harmonies find a way in and my body resonates to the basslines”

Art art and away

“Mesmerising, sumptuous, and transfixing: shatteringly human sounds from string and bow”

Cathryn Setz, BBC Southern Counties

“The crown of the evening: an absolutely stunning set!”

Spirit of Gravity

“Rich music, smoothly complicated, fascinating structures: a treasure for the ears”

Giza B

“Intensely beautiful: the most souldeep music I've heard”

Ruth Shine, Ladyfest Cork

St Andrews Church is the perfect place for a Bela Emerson gig - in this case, a one-off special to celebrate the release of her vinyl debut, the seven-inch single Scythe. The church is still consecrated ground; red wine is banned lest if offend His Lordship and the very atmosphere compels you to speak in whispers. Which kinda suits Bela’s music - as do the vaulted ceilings and palpable sense of holiness. After all, such music - spontaneous, improvised, wrought from the moment- more than most seems gifted from some other, more sacred place. One’s thoughts should be on higher things.

To say Bela plays the cello is like saying Van Gogh paints pictures; it’s a fact, yes, but one which falls woefully short of the mark. Watching her perform, one realises for a start that the cello plays Bela just as much as she plays it. It’s a mutual thang. And it can’t be avoided that the woman and her instrument make sexy music. Not in an obvious way - this is not the bump ‘n’ grind of funk or the sleazy posturing of rock ‘n’ roll; rather, Bela and her cello exude the intimate intensity of two lovers utterly at ease with each other, who know exactly what makes each other tick and are comfortable enough to let go the hang-ups and get experimental.

Skeletal motifs are plucked and bowed; fingers caress and drum the cello’s neck and body and get looped into abstraction, becoming raindrops and footsteps, ticking clocks and faraway voices. Rhythms build, dissipate and overtake each other in the electronic ether as player and played circle each other in mutual seduction, the music about mere notes and chords as much as sex is about mere… well, you fill in the rest.

She plays two pieces. I think. It’s difficult to remember. You don’t think of these sorts of gigs in those terms; it’s kind of a consuming experience, especially sat where we were, in the front pew. I’ve seen Bela before and she’s always captivating but this was something else; this time she went one further.

You always hear this stuff about the artist as shaman, gifted with contact with a parallel realm; of their work happening through them, as if they’re a vessel for something else, something beyond conscious control. I’ll swear this is the deal with Bela tonight - lost to the music, all closed eyes and hair tumbling wildly over her a black and red flamenco dress. That dress can be no coincidence. The Spanish flamenco gypsies live for El Duende, the spirit of passion that possesses their guitars and their drives their stamping feet. Watching Bela up there, writhing in front of the altar, cello gripped between her thighs and stilletoed feet stabbing at the welter of electronics sprawled before her, then I get the feeling that if I’m not in the presence of El Duende now, then I never will be.

The electrifying performance ends, as it should, to riotous applause. Bela tries to thank us, but is beyond words.

Church should always be like this.

Jon Seagrave, Don’t Feed The Poets

Before the gig, she smiles up at you. A wide smile with big lazy eyes that beam magma rays of calm into your heart. An inexplicable hip-slung aura reflects off her black shining instrument. It is shaped like an electronic seal. It might smell of patent leather. Its silver spike impales the ground at her feet. In her hands the cello becomes a sawn off weapon, a bloodied stump of a thing connected by multi-coloured capillaries to half a dozen metal boxes filled with loops and effects. The boxes respond to kicks and taps from her kitten-heeled feet, sending sparks down the wires. Fingers hit the boxes too, deft nicotine stained fingers mezzotinted yellow. The sounds echo off neon pink sofas and tiled floors blackened by ultraviolet lamps, and the loops repeat - a tick in the click of the soul of clocks. The music turns anticlockwise. One kick of the box can destroy the calm and renew it again. The layers fold quickly under each other in big thick sweeps of the bow. There are many textures. Sometimes chunks of noise bounce across the thick coiled strings like sausages. Sometimes fine sine waves waver and lull, humming a tune that soothes. All these resonant frequencies coagulate, crease, reaching down into the guts, into the bowels of sound. She’s swallowing us all into her internal network of underground caverns and canals. We journey down for a time, through the tubes and stomachs of murmur and hum until, in a reverie, she sways and fades.

She surfaces, dark hair falling about her face.

With a fluid movement she removes a silver ring from her finger to tap and scrape at the black thing. A sound like a cutlery drawer closing escapes and travels through the boxes. A concatenation of clicks, crunching and repeating like a huge mouthful of crisps. A sound that grabs you in the chest and tightens. She pauses to listen, to sip the sounds, to sweat a little, to breathe, to make of the cacophony a serene diminuendo. She sticks out a toe, clothed in a pointed leather shoe, and makes it hover over the box. She is counting, looking for a pulse in the clatter. The toe tips and hits the switch twice. The clicks trip up and reloop, becoming an accidental polka. Into this new rhythm she pours hot mellow liquids sweet as tea in a china cup. She’s pinning long notes under her fingers, which creep across the fret in an insect walk, setting us off again, verberating and reverberating in a purr whirr murmerdrone that distorts and then. Just. Stops.

Daniel Hernandez, Haringey Arts