What are your goals in life, and will you ever reach them? Raquel Bell’s “Who Gets to Name the Name” confronts one of the deepest, and often most difficult questions we’re faced with as we grow, imploring us to acknowledge that our hopes and dreams may forever exist only in our heads – and that we might not get where we’re going, after all.
This is a river
It came to me
The doves have been shot
Down from the trees
My lipsticks I line up on the counter
Holding down my memories forever
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the music video for “Who Gets to Name the Name,” off Raquel Bell’s long-awaited debut album Swandala (released July 27, 2018 via STORBM). An experimental pop songstress and musical shapeshifter – you never quite know what you’ll here next – Raquel Bell defies definition by making what has to be made, and saying what has to be said. Swandala is much akin to the Tibetan monks’ sand mandala, in that it’s an expression of momentary forces of nature and humanity coming together in a grandiose storm of energy and emotion – a representation of an already bygone time, that was but will never be again.
A truly unique rising voice in music, Bell evokes everyone from The Flaming Lips to Kate Bush, to My Morning Jacket and even Garth Brooks across a record that exists outside the boundaries of ordinary confinement. Listening to it is all the explanation one really requires, and “Who Gets To Name The Name” is as much a unique entity on the album as it is a standout example of Bell’s intimate lyricism and artistry at work.
“When I set about making SWANDALA it was originally called A SOLO TO MARS,” the artist tells Atwood Magazine. “I had just moved from New York City to rural Texas. My boyfriend at the time was an astronomer and we used to look at the moon out in the field by our trailer. It was my belief that I had failed myself in New York over the 11 years that I lived there by never accomplishing a solo record. I perceived myself as a victim of the music industry and my own distractible personality. I was having nightmares and I would wake up screaming and crying every night. The remedy was to begin working every day on my own music in a disciplined way. This is when the record began.”
She continues, “The first week I moved to Texas, I went on tour with Dark Tips — my duo with Jessica Pavone based on composition, improvisation and meditation. After the tour I felt like I was more centered in my own heart and I began composing SWANDALA with a good fever. I was testing myself. I pushed every one of my own buttons. I was still a terrified person at this time and so much of the process took guts for me. In some instances I was so afraid to talk to the musicians I wanted to hire that I had to do ceremonies for hours before I called them just to get up the nerve. I had no self esteem! Looking back now it all seems hilarious. There was some part of me that knew I had to jump through some hoops in order to find peace. SWANDALA is grandiose. In contrast I am a minimalist and typically play improvised music written for my organ, or I do percussion. Now that I am on the other side of this massive accomplishment I feel extraordinary gratitude for all of the people who joined in and were INCREDIBLY warm and supportive. There is so much love in every particle of every track and every video we made. I can barely sing “Who Gets To Name The Name” anymore because I just cry.”
Bracken left whacked and hanging
An escort down the straight lane
Burdened by the changing of the sane
Who gets to name the name
Bells and billowing sails in my dreams
A wet dog clutched to my chest
Tears in your eyes in the doorway
Should I go with you instead?
Crying out with a warm country twang, Raquel Bell fills “Who Gets To Name The Name” with sweet, tender aching as she confronts her innermost hopes, dreams, plans, and more. This concept echoes throughout the music video, where strawberries hang down on fine red threads and an actress (Leyya Tawil) dances her way in, through, and around the vivid red fruit. Directed by Russell Lee Cramer and Yuan Liu and choreographed by Leyya Tawil, the video implores us to reflect on our younger goals and dreams, the sacrifices we make as we get older, and the increasing complexity of life’s decisions for ourselves and others.
According to the directors, “the strawberries — the perfect, sweet, and magical juicy fruit — symbolize the ideologies that were brought forth to us as children (in any country)… “As we go through life… we alter and change the scale of the environment that we feel responsible for. What is worse? Ignorance? Illusion of knowledge? Ideology? Or a ‘just’ war?” explains filmmaker Yuan Liu.
Halfway through the video, Tawil bends down in almost prayer-like position; when she gets up, her hair is cut and she looks older – but she’s still there, amongst the strawberries. “Who Gets to Name the Name” challenges our understanding of the paths we’re taking and the roads we’re on: It confronts the idea that we’ll get to where we’re going, and we’ll achieve whatever it is we’re seeking. It’s a dark, sad, and overwhelming lament; how fitting it is, that it comes off as a country song.
As for Raquel Bell, she’s busy at work on music and more: “Now I am working on a new project with Primary Mystical Experience and we call it GALECSTASY. We focus on channeling and improvisation. We have a residency at the Grand Star Jazz Club in Los Angeles during 2019 and many of the super-stars from SWANDALA will be sharing their musical genius on stage with us. Stay tuned!”
Stream Raquel Bell’s “Who Gets To Name The Name” exclusively on Atwood Magazine!
“Who Gets to Name the Name” – Raquel Bell
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📸 © Russell Lee Cramer