Van Allen Belt - Monolith Cocktail review

Our Istanbul resided novelist in the wings, Ayfer Simms, finds herself entranced by The Van Allen Belt‘s latest and most ambitious, eclectic Panavision framed opus, Heaven On A Branch. Criminally underrated; Ayfer champions the Pittsburgh trio with a her usual literary rich style of critique.


The Van Allen Belt   ‘Heaven On A Branch’

Look up! Past the stratosphere, there is a psychedelic wavelength trapping a ghostly clamor, a cool jazzy voice, traces of an older era of sounds, perfectly paired, bred with something new, a feel, a new genre perhaps that has no label as yet. It is possible to name the instruments one by one, even describe the vocalist’s suave confident voice that echoes above our heads, yet put all together this become a breathless orchestra, upbeat and melodious that forbids any sorts of appellations: “don’t give her any, she don’t need none, she don’t need none”. Indeed, we want to apply this for the Van Allen Belt as they pull us in a trance like mood for a minute before throwing us in a befuddled happiness the next. The tracks are like a roller coaster, sounds from the past swirling above our world while carrying the darkest of us with it.

With the Van Allen Belt we are inside the firework, the instruments are crackling brightly high in the sky, mingling with the radio waves flying off from earth. These are echoes, chants, icicles from caves, tales from the stars, and despite the buoyant inflection, a cry of humanity stripped of its lamenting attitude. If you look closer, the themes of the songs are encroached under the skin; there is something rotten in the kingdom of the disco pop, hard, like hideous harsh things hidden on the dark side of the moon, ashes of corps?


Songs like ‘Bubble Gum’ depict a man about to die after the lethal injection, facing humanity with a great yet uneasy sense of humor, ‘Southside Story’ stippled with drug addiction references “married to the needle still, climbing back with aderol”, ‘Slopes’ with prostitution and misery, ‘Clouds’ a tale of mental deformation “Santa Sangre plays on the screen”  (the story of a traumatized clown who saw his suicidal father cut off his mother’s hands before killing himself) and the name of the Russian compulsive obsessed musician Shostakovich is thrown in almost as an insult, or a prayer to the real face of humankind, not to mention the text itself versed as if from the diary of a deranged poet. The first track ‘Rain’ is an existentially charged plead: “Let go of burden, one thing is certain, rain from your eyes”. While the sound is upbeat and ardent, the lyrics portray a murky world with a bleak outcome, arranged in an elegiac spirit.


The 1960’s atmosphere is well present, the vocals, the instruments like trumpets and the echoing melodies as well as some references to that époque’s mythical pop disco are magnetic to say the least. “I wish I could see you all the time”; close your eyes now, and feel the breeze, the vintage air from the gleaming and sizzling sounds, the one millions little details, the tunnel of sounds, “you make my heart beat so fast”, this is a new kind of gospel, a busy music box where the sound bursts as soon as released. Who can tame the trumpets, the guitars and the drums?

The name of the band taken from the radiation strip around the earth is exquisitely chosen and perfectly fits the stance of the band: What are we but invisible energetic charged particles?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: