School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms (2009)

School Of Seven Bells - AlpinismsBrooklyn-based three-piece School Of Seven Bells got their name from a PBS documentary on a mythical South American pickpocket academy that seemingly has yet to be fact-checked. Watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze (although not so much the same) for an idea of what skills one needs at such a school.

Made up of Benjamin Curtis and twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Dehez, the three met while touring for Interpol. They hit it off, left their former bands (Curtis from The Secret Machines and the Dehez sisters from On!Air!Library!), and SVIIB was born.

To call the mellow trio a shoegaze band (à la M83) doesn’t really fit, nor does — to a point — dream pop (à la Asobi Seksu). One would have to recall the influential Cocteau Twins for a more accurate comparison, but even then SVIIB manages to set itself apart in ways that you really couldn’t draw any similarities.

Part of that is a result of the band’s somewhat unusual approach in putting words to paper ahead of any sounds to paper. One can’t complain because it seemed to have worked with the band’s debut LP Alpinisms. The album title, referring to mountaineering, is very appropriate given the amount of work the three put into the album and the result is a complex multi-layered and simply beautiful album.

The unexpected “Iamundernodisguise” opens as a somewhat tribal number. The lyrics (“I am neither breather nor speaker / I am neither walker nor sleeper / I am neither sister brother son nor daughter”) seem more like ritualistic chants amid fuzzy guitar chords and filling synths. The subsequent “Face To Face On High Places” follows a similar path except that it’s more uplifting and positive.

The magnificent “Half Asleep” and “Connjur” highlight how enchanting SVIIB can be, matching elegant melodies with Alejandra and Claudia’s lovely voices. Even more abstract pieces like the quasi-minimalist “White Elephant Coat,” the eastern-sounding “Prince Of Peace,” or the experimental opus “Sempiternal/Amaranth” envelope you, like experiencing diverse cultures and absorbing countless ideas through a whirlwind sprint across the planet.

I guess that’s how School Of Seven Bells gets you, inducing a confused haze of memories and past experiences — although more in the vein of déjà vu than a hangover.

School Of Seven Bells (photo by Elle Muliarchyk)

School Of Seven Bells

School Of Seven Bells

[photo via Elle Muliarchyk | Big Hassle]

Track list:

    1. Iamundernodisguise
    2. Face To Face On High Places
    3. Half Asleep
    4. Wired For Light
    5. For Kalaja Mari
    6. White Elephant Coat
    7. Connjur
    8. Sempiternal/Amaranth
    9. Chain
    10. Prince Of Peace
    11. My Cabal

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