By Beverly Bryan
School of Seven Bells is a welcome refuge from all of the
bland pop coming out now. The airy songs on Alpinisms, released last Octobeer, may melt on the tongue rather than
stay with you, but they’re still far more than flavorless background noise. Electronic
tribal rhythms support the twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza’s buoyant and
breathy vocals as they circle and dip over skeletal melodies. It’s prettier
than it is strange, but it’s strange enough to be intriguing.
There’s a lovely, filmic quality to the ethereal harmonies
and the shimmering sonic effects encasing them on songs like “Half Asleep” but,
fortunately, it’s not all gossamer.
Despite the plaintive vocals and jangly guitars, there’s a sparseness and
austerity in “White Elephant Coat” that calls up early Joy Division. The
rhythms are tough and there’s a bit of experimentalism and post-punk edge in
the jump cut songwriting on much of the album. Many of the choral passages blend the delicate and the dissonant.
There’s plenty of shadow, but it’s always broken by bursts of light.
There’s a real
accomplishment in making an album that takes risks without sounding like an experimental
album. School of Seven Bells is too
effervescent to be an experiment. There are moments of tremendous tension, but
most of the time Alpinisms feels like an escape into a
softer world, possibly a parallel universe remake of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Blonde
Redhead and Coco Rosie fans are advised to snap it up.
School of Seven Bells plays Rock and Roll Hotel September 27. Tickets are available at Ticket Alternative.