Detonate: Sleigh Bells


Brooklyn is fast becoming a hotbed of new, exciting acts that are defining Obama’s nu-America. Now, in addition to TV On The Radio, Dirty Projectors and French Horn Rebellion, we have noise pop duo Sleigh Bells.

From their name, you’d think that they were another breezy, twee indie band singing about summer breaks with girls and beer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the duo of Derek Miller (songwriter, guitarist, producer) and Alexis Krauss (vocals) concoct a ferocious mix of metal and rap (minus the Limp Bizkit stupidity) in an ambience akin to Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Crystal Castles and Health.

The duo met by chance in a diner when Derek was waiting tables on Alexis and her mother. Derek, who was former guitarist for post-hardcore band Poison the Well, mentioned he was looking for a female vocalist to work on a project and Alexis’ mum immediately volunteered her daughter, who was also a former member of teen pop group Rubyblue.

After performing at the CMJ Music Marathon in 2009, they caught the attention of filmmaker Spike Jonze, who used their music for a short film about depressive robots called I Am Here. Spike loved them so much that he also introduced them to his friend Maya aka the multidisciplinary, rebel-rousing rapper MIA.

MIA in turn was so taken aback with Sleigh Bells that she literally hijacked the next plane to New York, signed the duo to her new label NEET Recordings and got Derek to work on her third LP /\/\/\Y/\. After releasing a few tracks online and catching the attention of music tastemakers such as Pitchfork, who named the song ‘Crown On The Ground’ the 57th best track of 2009, Sleigh Bells dropped their debut album Treats in May.

Barely half an hour in play time, Treats boasts a punk vibe throughout and opens with very basic yet catchy big beats and hugely distorted guitars on ‘Tell ‘Em’. As a vocalist, Alexis sings and raps like an 80s new wave, high-pitched pop singer who’s oblivious to all the noise going on in the background. This works perfectly to balance out the loud aggression. And on ‘Kids’, she gets as crunked up as Lil Jon while spitting out tight rhymes.

The instrumentals clash with some added electro-lite flavour to keep the attention and adrenaline going throughout the album. Things suddenly get twisted in a semi-soulful way on ‘Rill Rill’. The mid-album, mid-tempo song has got a lovey-dovey rnb feel to it-kinda like Beyoncé experimenting with Massive Attack.

Whatever your current taste may be, you should definitely give these Bells a listen. It will be ringing in your ears.

Treats (NEET/Mom + Pop) is available digitally. The CD will be in all good record shops soon. Derek’s work on MIA’s /\/\/\Y/\ will be out on 13 July. More noisy dongs at