Cavalcade is the debut album by Bellafea, a trio from Chapel Hill in South Carolina who consist of singer/guitarist Heather McEntire, bassist Eddie Sanchez and drummer Nathan Buchanan. If I were the resident music expert on The Antiques Roadshow and was asked to ascertain the provenance of this record, I would confidently place it as a product of the US alternative scene of the late twentieth century circa ’88-’92. Not that there is anything innately wrong with this – it was a period ripe with musical invention and, in comparison to the sounds of the 60’s/70’s, these latter decades have been mined for musical inspiration far less frequently in recent years. But it was initially distracting and meant that it took a few listens to properly sink in. The mood is persistently dark, bleak, angry and oppressive. The songs tend to shun conventional verse-chorus structures. Thin, heavily distorted guitar sits atop understated bass and stark drums. Violin features prominently on several tracks. The lyrics are edgy, rarely trite but occasionally clumsy (‘you said it’s over but it never even happened/where were you when I was defining it’ recalls the gaucheness of Alanis Morissette.) McEntire is a undoubtedly talented guitarist and singer and gives her all throughout but her voice sometimes seems ill-suited to some of the rockier numbers, tending to lose its character and sound strained and lost in the mix. At times this is emphasised by the music: when ‘Walking Distance’ breaks into a Sonic Youth style guitar riff you can’t help but compare her delivery unfavourably to Kim Gordon; and while the rolling drums of ‘Run Rabbit Run’ echo Throwing Muses, she lacks the conviction (or lyrical gifts) of a Kristen Hersh. On the slower tracks she sounds much more assured. The relatively (I use the term advisedly) poppy ‘Thornbird II’ starts off melodic and powerful before breaking abruptly into a thrash of drums and discordant guitar and then slowly dissolving beneath a screeching violin. On the mournful march of ‘Telling The Hour’ she invites a succession of punishments (‘give me scars so dark/I will have no choice but to remember’). The squalling guitars of closing track ‘Stranger’ bring the record to a satisfying conclusion. Bellafea will be touring the UK at the end of October.