First, the DJ part. Most people in the local nightlife have known Bell by her DJ name, Baby Alcatraz, ever since she started spinning vintage soul records at the Velvet Lounge a dozen-odd years back. Since then, she’s come to understand how different rhythms can merge into a contiguous whole, generating momentum by mixing and matching disparate tempos, timbres, moods and more. She describes DJing as “trying to make things work” — an approach she’s applying to her drums, hoping to get the Aurelions’ strangest songs to congeal without siphoning off too much strangeness. “I feel like my brain already works in that [DJ-oriented] way,” Bell says. “I’m always trying to keep things in balance, keeping all the low-end things working together in a cohesive way — but also in ways that barely make sense.”
Okay, next up, the roughly-a-decade part. The Aurelions? It’s just one guy, Bell’s husband Mark Cisneros, a scene fixture who’s played in more than a few fabulous D.C. bands over the years: Hammered Hulls, Des Demonas, Kid Congo Powers and the Monkey Birds, and more. According to Bell, the duo have been jamming together since forever, mostly to generate material for Cisneros’s groups, but still stashing the oddest riffs and rhythms for themselves. “Some stuff has gone into Hammered Hulls, some stuff has gone to Kid Congo,” Bell says, “but the weirder stuff we kept close to tease out and let it be as weird as it wants to be.”
Lastly, those engine parts. There are at least three. The first is Bell’s drum kit, which she often plays in a visceral response to the second part, Cisneros’s six-string bass guitar, known to proper guitar freaks as a “bass VI.” The instrument produces “a very heavy and surreal kind of sound where you get these highs, but you also get this underbelly of noise,” Bell says, adding that it sounds a little bit like the 1964 album “The Ventures in Space,” but also like nothing she’s ever really heard before.
As for the other main cog in the machine, it’s Bell’s singing voice, which she says people will just have to hear for themselves when Baby Alcatraz and the Aurelions finally play their first show after more than 10 years of revving the gas pedal in a closed garage. Should we presume that her voice floats higher in the mix than the rhythm section’s rumble and vroom? “Oh yeah, by a mile,” Bell says. “I hope it works. We’ll see.”