What initially appears as an unwavering, genderless enigma tunneling through Bellini's scattered wall of noise is, in fact, the shrill voice of the most assuredly female Giovanna Cacciola, formerly of the Sicilian band Uzeda. Seemingly oblivious to the movements of the music behind her, Cacciola conveys an authoritative wail nearly, but not quite, from the outset. On the opener, "Short Tale/Medusa," the band limps along through a somewhat tedious barrage of noodling for the first couple of minutes. Cacciola mumbles quietly in the background while her bandmates flex their muscles up and down the necks of their guitars and around the drum kit, but this lifelessness soon gives way to a roar of angry, raw guitars and drums that sound as if they were recorded through a 20-foot steel pipe.

These are the blistered beats of ex-Don Caballero drummer Damon Che belting stubbornly out of the background and brilliantly engineered to sound as such by Steve Albini, and in them lies a story. Although Che splintered drumsticks and busted drum heads for the CD, his honeymoon with Bellini was short-lived. While on tour last October, just over a month after Snowing Sun's release, he walked off stage in the middle of a Georgia gig, took off in the band's rental van and left them stranded at the venue. (Girls Against Boys alum Alexis Fleisig has since taken his place.)

Before his abrupt departure, Che created some peerless math rock with Cacciola's old Uzeda bandmate Agostina Tilotta (guitar) and bassist Matthew Taylor, but it was Cacciola's vocals that provided the depth that most math rock lacks. Her lyrics are also brilliant -- her dark, morose stories as necessary as her unique delivery. Snowing Sun's pinnacle comes on "Spilled Red Salsa in Black Coffee," where the androgynous voice behind the mike once again proves itself this record's saving grace.

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Lance Walker