Album Reviews

School of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire

on July 22, 2010, 7:59am
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Sometimes, you just want to get away from it all. When life’s stressing you out, there’s nothing you want more than to go on vacation and leave the world behind. If you can’t take a week off for a trip to Bermuda though, you can always just shut out the world with music. Close your eyes, lie back, and…disconnect. So far, out of all the albums this year to disappear into, School of Seven BellsDisconnect from Desire should be near the top of the list.

The second album by the New York trio is a beautiful mashup of haunting atmospherics, minimalistic guitar, thunderous bass, and gorgeous harmonies between twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. But despite how thick and layered the record is at times, there’s always a strong melody or groove to be found.

The opener, “Windstorm”, kicks things off strongly with a high-pitched vocal noise creating its own rhythm before the traditional instruments move the song to a more structured form. However, this vocal pattern is the focal point of the whole number, adding itself to the background about halfway through. Even though it’s fairly shrill, it’s still incredibly catchy. Like on nearly every track, the twins’ singing is pushed to the front and center. Swirling whistling noises that sound like they’re being played from the bottom of a canyon complete the process of this weird, yet awesome opener. We’re only on the first track, folks! It gets better from here.

“Heart Is Strange” and “Dust Devil” shows off the group’s range of effects and style by switching gears a little. The recognizable dream pop is still found everywhere but it’s relegated to the background for these next two tracks. The former is founded on a Daft Punk groove, with pulsing bass and upbeat drumming. The guitar work is also more rhythmic than on other tracks, adding itself to the beat rather than working off it. It’s the perfect song for driving on a highway at night. On the other hand, the latter is underwater music. The percussion heavy intro sounds like a build-up of rain if every drop was on a xylophone. Add some handclaps plus a racing bass line and you’ve got a perfectly good track for your next rave.

Almost all of the album’s other songs fall more into the shoegaze pop of the opener rather than the funk they unleash in “Dust Devil.” This is a real shame since those two numbers were done so well and felt like the direction the band was moving in since they came right after each other. Instead, they backpedaled and stuck to a style closer to “Windstorm.” Not that it’s a bad thing. There are many great moments in the record past the opening trilogy. “Babelonia” creates an expansive foggy atmosphere that the sister’s strong vocals break through. “Joviann” has a rumbling earthquake bass that shakes in the background but is always noticeable. But these songs feel like a step in the wrong direction and can’t hold up when compared to their earlier grooves.

It takes until the last two tracks for the trio to set themselves right again. First up is the daring “Bye Bye Bye”. Now, I don’t say it’s daring because of anything musically. It’s because any time that song name appears, it brings up images of boy bands and synchronized hand waves from the early 2000s. Luckily, School of Seven Bells try their best to wipe away the memory of that hit with eerie atmospherics that support a kickass, stuttering groove. The entire number sounds like something the aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind would come up with if they landed in present-day Brooklyn.

The final song, “The Wait”, is simply the best way the band could have ended Disconnect From Desire. There’s not much more to say about it, mainly because not much happens. Unlike the rest of the album, however, this track is minimalistic to its core. For most of its six-minute run, all that’s heard is a pleasant drone and the lovely harmonies of the two Dehezas. Some light drum taps and brittle guitar notes come in towards the end, creating a beautifully slow send-off into dreamland. In a record with so much going on, ending on a bare bones track gives listeners a chance to relax and take in the whole experience.

From beginning to end, School of Seven Bells’ second album creates interesting and melodic atmospheres that provide support for some truly great songs. While it’s a shame that they didn’t experiment more with their rave elements, there isn’t much bad you can say about what’s here. It’s worth a listen, especially after a stressful day. So lie back and let Disconnect From Desire give you a vacation without ever having to purchase a plane ticket.

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