23rd March 2012

Album: School of Seven Bells – Ghostory

This, School of Seven Bells’ 3rd album, finds them on more streamlined form than ever.

School Of Seven Bells
Vagrant Records
3 stars

The third album from School Of Seven Bells finds them on more streamlined form than ever. Gone are the tribal influences which made their debut, Alpinisms so compelling, and the album is also a track shorter than their sophomore effort Disconnect From Desire. However the most obvious absence is third member Claudia Deheza, whose departure during the touring of that album may account for the band’s newly pared down sound. Her sister Alejandra makes an admirable effort to compensate for her absence however, with heady, polished vocals that are never anything less than commanding, and, on standouts such as current single ‘Lafaye’, genuinely ethereal.

On previous albums, the band have seemed overly concerned with chasing the meditative bliss/mysticism which the shoegaze scene is often parodied for, whether in the eastern-tinged guitar excess of ‘Sempiternal/Amaranth’ or with vague mantras such as  ‘Allow yourself to be relieved’. Here they are guilty of no such indulgences, with tracks rarely exceeding a comfortable 4:30 length, and Deheza at her most direct lyrically. The band have described the album as a series of conversations between the character of Lafaye and the ghosts of her past, and while this might sound like a recipe for tedious introspection, the results are pleasingly straightforward. Lines like “You take my love and leave me empty/And all you feel is a fist of draining sand” aren’t going to set the world alight, but are all the more appealing for their simplicity. Long-term fans also shouldn’t fear that their latest incarnation is bereft of the beats that made them such an intriguing prospect in 2008. Sonic maestro Benjamin Curtis’s rhythms are more propulsive than ever, particularly on album closer ‘When You Sing’, which somehow carves out its own unique take on the slow burning template established by My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Soon’.

School of Seven Bells – Lafaye

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