Thursday, February 18, 2016

Album Review: School of Seven Bells- SVIIB

School of Seven Bells
***and1/2 out of *****
During their career School of Seven Bells put out three decent efforts that dabbled in shoegaze at the start before moving into a more dream pop realm with shiny synths and electro bursts. Then tragedy struck as founding member of the once trio, then two piece, Ben Curtis was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma and three years ago passed away just as the band was starting SVIIB. Alejandra Deheza was left to work on the album on her own and while the move to full on 80's pop isn't unexpected, the upbeat music is.

While Deheza could have gone the Morrissey morose route yet the music remains positive, swelling with layers of synth that just drips 80's neon. Its not a full out party as lyrically Deheza is clearly still hurting (example A: "Confusion") from her partners all to sudden death but the words and vocal performance take on a more robotic/distant form and never drag things down.    

"Ablaze" opens with big heights of keyboard work but the album takes a little while to catch on. "On My Heart" is a safe if sterile love song while "Open Your Eyes" is glitchy and never clicks into a dance mode or full experimentation.

Then things mesh perfectly on "A Thousand Times More" where the electro feeling gains energy drive and focus. "Signals" is another highlight with a dance club vibe and a big riffed chorus while "Music Takes Me" brings around the beat to make things more organically fun. The end remains upbeat, a call to enjoy the moment with "This is Our Time".

RtBE's issue with School of Seven Bells in the past was always the sterilized nature of their efforts; all style over substance. While SVIIB could still play as the Replicants from Blade Runners favorite disk, it has a more human backstory, sadness and in the end a full on immersive enjoyable experience.  
Two things, one it is sad that Curtis is no longer with us. While we never dug School of Seven Bells that much, The Secret Machines were mega in the mid 00's and gave us some of our favorite NYC music moments as well as at least one all-time disk. Second, I wonder how much the back story and the tragic loss effects/affects our ears with this one...

Support the band, buy the album, peep some video:

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