released July 13th, 2010

from the album - Babelonia

from all music

Ben Curtis fled Secret Machines in 2007 to focus on School of Seven Bells, an electronics-enhanced dream pop group formed with twin sister vocalists Claudia and Alejandra Deheza (also of On!Air!Library!). They debuted in 2007 on Sonic Cathedral with the 7" recording My Cabal, which featured a remix on the B-side from Robin Guthrie — Guthrie's Cocteau Twins, as well as several of the artists the Cocteaus inspired, from My Bloody Valentine to Medicine, being apparent touchstones. Two other releases were out before the end of the year: the Face to Face on High Places 7" (Radium) and The Class of 73 Bells (Warp), a four-track Prefuse 73 EP featuring the group's input. The group's activities the following year included Silent Grips, a 7" released on Suicide Squeeze, and that October's Alpinisms, released on Ghostly International. They released their second album, the bigger-sounding Disconnect from Desire, in July 2010. Claudia has also recorded an album with Prefuse 73/Scott Herren, Singular (2006), as A Cloud Mireya.

album review

On their second album, School of Seven Bells cast themselves as an update of a specific kind of misfit band. Alpinisms reconstituted late-’80/early-‘90s shoegaze. Disconnect from Desire, however, updates the sound of a kind of band that would have opened for Peter Gabriel and Eurythmics, or headlined over Revolver, rather than tour with the likes of Lush, Ride, and Pale Saints. Here, a focused songcraft and central placement of the Deheza twins’ alluring vocals — which tend to be lower and more earthly than they were on the debut — disallow School of Seven Bells from being squarely shoegaze. At the same time, the band is too left of center, too odd, to be considered anywhere near the mainstream. Their cleaner, less wispy, more muscular sound, combined with more traditional songwriting, is not that radical a change. It’s closer to a slight shift that registers after a couple spins, once it becomes apparent that deeply emotive and relatively sparse songs like “I L U,” “Joviann,” and “The Wait” would have made excellent tracks buried throughout Sire’s Just Say series. They have shoegaze lyric-generator staples like wind, waves, ocean, storms, and even talk of “slipping away.” And yet, the words are not merely functional, written solely for the sake of complementing the sound as an additional instrument. They’re either poetically vague or vaguely poetic — stuff like “Let me will the dial to turn and gild the air with silver pearls of rain” and “When’s the wait a cradle in which you’re lulled from time to time, soundly spun into an insensate lie.” The thicker, more driving songs resemble a polished, warm Curve, whipping up squalls of noise over robust played-and-programmed rhythms that soar more often than batter. No matter the amount of layering, not a single element is obscured. This vivid directness suits them very well.

Track Listing

1 Windstorm 3:44
2 Heart Is Strange 5:01
3 Dust Devil 6:02
4 I L U 4:39
5 Babelonia 5:01
6 Joviann 5:06
7 Camarilla 4:52
8 Dial 4:54
9 Bye Bye Bye 4:15
10 The Wait 6:36