Wednesday, May 5, 2010

School of Seven Bells

Ghostly international

It's in the middle of the first rushing, sighing, wordless chorus of “Iamundernodisguise,” all heavily treated waves of backmasked guitar and electronics and female vocal undulations, that you realize there are such things as happy endings in (icky) rock and roll. Case in point: Benjamin Curtis, tired of doing time in perennially shoulda-been-huge rock band-of-brothers Secret Machines, wanted out desperately, he just didn't know when or how to make the final jump. However, after sharing stages with On! Air! Library!, a band fronted by inscrutable twin sisters Claudia and Alexandria Deheza, he saw his future in a very different set of siblings. They each ditched their respective bands and plotted a more mysterious and mainstream-shy course of action with School of Seven Bells. The gambit has paid off, “Alpinims” is their finest moment yet, leagues ahead of “Face to Face on High Places.” It fairly bursts forth with mystery, ambition and a lust for new ideas, new sounds and new experiences. School of Seven Bells is most directly reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine's hazy beauty, Dead Can Dance's omnivorous hunger for a whole world of sound, with a dash of Toro y Moi’s shimmering uncertainty. The electronic treatments and programmed beats are fresh and inventive, often adding a danceable sheen to complicated effects collages, the guitars are understated, oft seeping into an inseparable whole with the synths and keyboards, and there is a wealth of vocals! The Dehaza sisters construct beautiful and unexpected harmonies together, before darting off into their own separate worlds, and Curtis whispered baritone is much more rare, but a fine complement. And despite the clash of ideas, effects pedals, and songs that follow their own internal logic, goddamn does School of Seven Bells know their way around a chorus.

- Matthew Moyer