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School of Seven Bells

Disconnect From Desire

[Vagrant; 2010]

By ; July 14, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

School of Seven Bells’ Disconnect From Desire is not easily pinned down. After a successful debut release, tours with Blonde Redhead and Bat For Lashes, Benjamin Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines, together with twin sisters (not to be confused with the Long Island band) Alejandra and Claudia Deheza are back to please young darkwavers with their sophomore release. While fans and followers alike will be content with knowing that this album continues in the mold of their previous lucid-dreamy-yearnings, Disconnect From Desire finds itself scattered and at times an awkward amalgamation of early shoegaze and dance-pop rhythms. SVIIB find themselves at a crossroads between experimental/conceptual music, and tightly knit, technical production. They are clearly aware of the tradition of precursors and contemporaries from whom they pull their influences—My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Stereolab—but while their résumé holds up, the final product seems somewhat coerced.

Album opener “Windstorm” is the clear strong point for SVIIB on their second-go. It is immediately playful and the hook is empowering. Not only is the track glazed with SVIIB trademark’s breezy synths and ethereal production, it best accomplishes the nu-gaze/dancey mishmash that the rest of the album sets out to (take for example the Pharrell-esque “Drop It Like It’s Hot” snare hits at 2:25 that somehow feel like they work). Other highlights like on “Babelonia” show off the Deheza twins Stereolab-style vocal counterpoints, although always with a slightly more operatic tinge. Further evidence can be found on “Joviann” where the vocal belting stands strongest on top of pensive tensions, and chordal developments that teeter in and out of explorative sonic realms.

But all too often the songs don’t stick. While they build upon the sounds of Curtis’s dark guitar and piano, they lack a succinct structure. Further, the Deheza’s supposed song-writing technique of writing music only secondarily, and for the purpose of accompanying their lyrical poetry, often portrays a clumsy and forced lyrical cadence.

It wasn’t too long ago that School of Seven Bells was featured on an Adult Swim compilation. But don’t let that fool you, this is not stoner cartoon music. Albeit, the fantasy world that this album creates could take you to that place, if so desired. But in and of itself, Disconnect From Desire, does not do as it orders its listeners—it is far too culturally referential and obvious in its influences to be disconnected. For a band so thoughtful and intentional in its seamless, home-studio crafted production, this fusion between shoegaze and dance music ultimately falls short, as it is far too meditatively head-phone music, and not the groovey, shimmery magic zephyr that it meant to take you away on.


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