With healthy doses of vintage 4AD-style dream pop, strobing drum work and deeply mesmerizing duel-vocal melodies, School of Seven Bells delivers an appealingly retrofied look into the future with Disconnect from Desire. The band’s sophomore release is more monolithic and steady in its design than 2008’s long-gestating debut Apinisms. This leaves less room for surprises but allows the entire album to effectively operate as a gigantic crashing-wave crescendo, a crescendo that finds beautiful articulation when juxtaposed with the windswept lullaby coda of “The Wait.”
The album kicks off with a dizzying squawk of tumbling synths on “Windstorm.” The synths give way to Alejandra and Claudia Deheza’s rebounding volleys of twin siren vocals. The inherent serenity of synths and guitars tied in a shimmering knot is nicely juxtaposed by the chorus lyics, conjuring images of natural disaster and anarchic personal velocity: “When the fire’s burning from sky to ground / Swing my weight around begin the windstorm.”
The Kraut-rock synth drone opening strains of “Heart Is Strange” gives way to a bewitching glitterball melody. School of Seven Bells craft melancholic disco out of chugging guitars and lyrics that tentatively dole out details from mystical late-night tales. “Babelonia” tosses affected vocals into the mix, morphing the Deheza’s singing into the vocal equivalent of My Bloody Valentine’s signature glide guitars. Third band member Benjamin Curtis, of the Secret Machines, gently nudges each composition toward an emotional climax, keeping the atmospheric ambient synths and feedback of tracks like “Dial” and “Joviann” at a low boil for as long as possible before ripping into drenched soundbursts of roomy drum kit and guitar glaze. The band consistently foregoes the muddied wash of noise approach in favor of clean, sedentary layers of ambient noise. This style works equally well on the anthemic dance-rock jitterbug of “Bye Bye Bye” (which sounds almost like a disco-ready, distilled version of Jesus and Mary Chain) or the crushing softness of “I L U.” The latter track’s deceptively tender confessions (“I want you to know that I loved you”) prove to be a heartbreaking high point of casual suffering. Oceanic closing track, “The Wait” beautifully unfolds with pitter-pattering percussion and cresting backing vocals and winds down the album with a hypnotizing high.
Favorite Track: “The Wait”
Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at www.myspace.com/wastedpotentialproduction and a production company at (www.wastedpotentialproductions.com) for freelance film, video and journalism work.