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The Van Allen Belt / Press

“Opening with the jaw-dropping vocal chorale, "Dr. Layman's Terms," you know you're in for it with The Van Allen Belt's 20-track monster, Meal Ticket to Purgatory. Apparently, that meal ticket is redeemable for a feast of bite-sized psych-pop nuggets, all fanciful appetizers with nary an entrée in sight. And forget filling up on bread. The album's main sonic ingredients are the dual, multi-tracked vocals of Tamar Kamin and Martine Mancini, simmered with Ben Ferris' guitar and keys and Scott Taylor's rattletrap drums into a reverberating soup, a low-fi version of Phil Spector's "wall of sound." Songs range from Motown girl-group pop to gauzy, synth-laden ballads, from playful to soulful, from nostalgic to sharp-tongued. ”

“The Van Allen Belt claim to stand for "the advancement of human civilization". If Psychadelic pop tinged with John Barry orchestral flourishes is the music of our next evolution then 'Superpowerfragilis' is a compelling manifesto. With the gusto of Jefferson Airplane and all the histrionics of a Shirely Bassey Bond theme, Van Allen Belt are audacious in the best possible way. 'Superpowerfragilis' isn’t just a technical accomplishment. It’s musical influences might be obvious, but the satire is relentless and sometimes deliciously brutal ("You think there’s only room in this world for one God / So you keep sex out of your precious little princesses class / And virgins everywhere are ending up with cocks in their ass"). Occasionally the band's vitriol is a little careless. 'Slanted to the Left' might be the most interesting song on the album with its seventies theme-tune feel and delirious lyrics. ”

“Pittsburgh psych-poppers The Van Allen Belt really enjoy keeping the start value for difficulty high; between the mesmerizing, serpentine melodies of lead singer Tamar Kamin’s otherworldly croon and the group’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink performance style, ”Lovely in Akron,” off the group’s 2010 full-length release Superpowerfragilis, is anything but simple. The track easily encapsulates influences from forty years of pop music, evoking anything from the Euro indie-pop bombast of Jens Lekman to the symphonic swells of The Ronnettes, and doing it multiple times in less than three minutes. The linchpin of the entire operation remains Kamin’s voice, a sultry expansion of Zooey Dechanel’s detached song: insouciant but playful, opulent yet controlled.”

“There is surely no band quite like Pittsburgh’s The Van Allen Belt. After being introduced to their startling music via the Irish digital label Indiecater, that idea still holds for the follow-up. The group’s chief skills is to create authentically ambitious soundtrack music that wouldn’t sound out of place in Hollywood films from the 1950′s-1970′s, were it not for the bizarre lyrical matter. ‘Out Of Lunch’ is the kind of twisted take on musicals that the act have specialised in and sets the scene for equal parts brilliance and madness. The arrangements on ‘The Way You Look’ is worthy of Bacharach with only the earthy lyrics bringing the listener back down to this planet. However inventive the production is though, Tamar Kamin is just as important to the Van Allen Belt sound, showing great versatility with her powerful vocals; particularly impressive in her sassy soul siren guise for ’1997′ and downright scary for the unhinged ‘The Status Quo (A Line Dance)’.”

“I was going to start this review with ‘Pialidocious baby!!’ and now look what’s happened… I bloody well have! Boy, this take on all things that rattled the sixties, has been given a modern finish that is pure burnished gold. Brought up to date so that it is totally now - it’s pure genius. This music ventures from the edge of 60’s psyche band territory (although they sound nothing like them, think Jefferson Airplane at their most playful), through soundtracks that defined ‘hip’ (think Bacharach meets Schifrin meets Barry), and on to the pure pop of luminaries like The Beach Boys, The Association, and the Mamas and Papas. Put all of those together (yes, I know, it is unfeasible, but…), add some of today’s technology, a great (I mean GREAT) pop sensibility, and you get an album like this: impossible to categorise, luscious to listen to. ”

“Next, I’d like to draw your attention to the mighty orchestral Ragnarok of SUPERPOWERFRAGILIS by Pittsburg’s Van Allen Belt, whose soaringly epiphanic and euphoric Post-everything meditations on 21st Century Amerika succeed mostly by deploying umpteen orchestral themes sampled from that country’s glorious postwar Golden Age. Yup, by sampling TripHop-stylee those most hoary and Establishment P. Spector and B. Bacharach sounds of the sixties and seventies, then re-triggering those suckers back into the ether re-jigged and re-written from the post-Dubya perspective of No Future, the Van Allen Belt sugars, nay, saccharines its bitter cultural pill AND has us fingerpopping simultaneously. Non-stop orchestral wipe-out? Yes please! Doris Day rides the sybian? U-Betcha!”

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