Avant musical collective BELLA GAIA creates music that is sourced from some point just outside the pull of Earth’s gravity. Co-founded and led by multi-instrumentalist Kenji Williams, the group incorporates exotic rhythms, quixotic melodies and a host of unexpected sounds in an attempt to bring attention to issues concerning the devastation of the earth and our roles in the preservation of our environment. Inspired by a meeting between Williams and international space station astronaut Michael Fincke, BELLA GAIA melds a classical approach to composition with a more modern sense of rhythmic elasticity.
Their live shows combine an almost overwhelming display of aural and visual stimulation, which, among other things, includes dramatic imagery, modern dance routines and the ensemble’s otherworldly musical voyages. Integrating satellite images, time-lapse photography and scenes of cultural evolution within their presentations, Williams and the group have brought these awe-inspiring sights and sounds to such venues as the Smithsonian, the Guggenheim and the Museum of Natural History.
The debut album from the group, simply titled “BELLA GAIA-Beautiful Earth,” brings together a global collection of renowned musicians and artists, including Sound healing artist Kristen Hoffman, tabla master Deep Singh and Japanese koto player Yumi Kurosawa. But this isn’t simply an exercise in world music tropes; these sounds look to connect with their audience on a deeply personal and emotional level. This is music intended to move and affect, not content to simply be observed and passed over.
There is a sense of celestial wonder to the music on “BELLA GAIA-Beautiful Earth,” which finds itself operating within some grand heavenly mechanism-a rhythmic conflagration of stars, planets, moons and their interconnected gravities. But having said that, Williams never allows the music to disconnect too much from our own collection of oceans and continents. For all their spiraling textures and astronomic tendencies, these songs also feel drawn to the fields, marshes and coastlines that we call home.
Call it futurist exotica or alternative new age if you want (though those are terribly limiting characterizations), but the music never seems overly wispy or inconsequential-in fact, it holds within itself a deep sense of resolute purpose and determination. Drawing out various tones and harmonic regularities from a host of stringed instruments and a series of calming choral arrangements, BELLA GAIA creates an iridescent landscape of gossamer melodies and labyrinthine rhythms. Rest assured, you’ve never heard anything quite like this before.
Stream BELLA GAIA’s new record below.