Erny Belle, real name Aimee Renata, walks the razor’s edge. The narrative of her debut album ‘Venus Is Home’ sits deep in some heavy feelings and the Tāmaki Makaurau-based artist refines the art of double entendre; wreaking havoc with narrative and tense, while juggling raw emotion and dry humour.
Loosely labelled as a pop artist, Belle combines all manners of folk, country, and exotica, with plenty of rock’n’roll “baby”s thrown in for good measure.
The nine-song collection pulls us along Belle’s journey through grief, existentialism, and the day-to-day. A relationship gone wrong, loneliness, helplessness, and lots of ‘I’m fine!’ moments. There’s plenty of observation and philosophy too, pausing to think about the environment, observing tikanga, and pondering what comes next.
Nuclear Bombs offers a sarcastic take on the worst of society; discussing child abuse, drug abuse, animal abuse and the abuse of our natural environment – in the name of modernity and progress. Delivered like a true country classic – twangy guitars, sweet vocals – she opens with the confronting statement, “I’m gonna go and smoke some p and put my baby in a washing machine and pray to god a nuclear bomb kills me.” A lush take longing for all of society’s troubles and hypocrisies to be over.
Fittingly the title track is the standout. Venus Is Home stunningly portrays the heaviness, shame and detachment of loss. We are reminded of what it’s like to try to mask grief. Nothing is as real and devastating as when Belle’s grandmother says to her, “…looks like you need a feed.” The song resolves as the artist finds herself centred, in a place of belonging with her grandmother. She goes from walking down the street, barefoot, drinking scrumpy, to a calmness from nanna Venus’ reassuring “…life’s too short to let a man make you feel blue.”
Belle gives us plenty of more active moments too, using everything her brain’s got to give. She says she’s “…crazy baby, not mad enough” on Baby Blue; and gives insight to her process as her “…thoughts spill out in a feverish sweat” on Chuck It In The Trash.
Sorry Not Sorry gives us lively “yeah nah” which punctuates and propels the dreamy song along, like a hiccup from her “drinking on a broken heart”.
These songs are together a beautifully produced collection, for which Belle takes credit. Breathy vocals, a variety of measured string instruments, hand percussion, lightly played piano. It’s at times simple, sometimes multi-layered, and always rich.
While she can’t be directly compared to the likes of Aldous Harding or Reb Fountain, Erny Belle shares an insight, wisdom, and fearlessness that fans of either will no doubt enjoy. She’s unafraid to explore arrangement in this varied offering and experiments with her vocal range. It’s clear that she’s bared all, and put her all into this album, with stunning results.