than a year ago, at the Blind Pig. But even then, it was clear that Wild Belle had something special.
The band's core players are siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman, who had previously collaborated occasionally in Elliot's Afrobeat band, Nomo. Although both Bergmans are now based in New York, Elliot has a strong Ann Arbor connection, having formed Nomo here as a U-M student. Their age difference (Natalie is eight years younger) and varying locations made their full-fledged musical collaboration difficult for some time. But last year the Bergmans began writing moody, sensual, Caribbean-flavored pop tunes together, featuring Natalie on vocals and Elliot on keyboards and horns.
Wild Belle shares Nomo's world-music sensibilities and African-inspired beats, but swaps out its electronic textures for laconic reggae guitar and--in striking contrast to Elliot's previous all-instrumental work--adds the key element of Natalie's voice. It's almost impossible to overestimate the younger Bergman's importance. Her seductive, expressive, often plaintive croon is crucial to the band's unique sound. And she's a striking stage presence, tall and blonde with a keen fashion sense. Swaying to the music with gentle confidence, she is the defining face of the band.