In the accompanying press release, Benjamin Curtis claims that his latest EP with Alejandra Deheza as School of Seven Bells, Put Your Sad Down, is “the most fun Alley and I have had making music in a long time,” and it shows. It’s as if the duo has exorcised the ghostly haunt of their last album by undertaking the action of the EP’s title.
A sprawling epic of an opening, the title track begins with a crash course in what has made SVIIB so alluring over the past five years, namely, the fuzzy, ethereal sounds of shoegaze blended with gothy synthpop undertones. At the six-minute mark, everything gets dialed back to a several moments of desolate dissonance, the darkness creeping back in, before the dance-floor beats kick back in and hit for keeps.
Although Deheza’s sister Claudia left the band in 2010, the tradition of twin harmonies carries on thanks to layering and multi-tracking. While remaining true to the dream pop trope of wispy and indecipherable on a cover of Silver Apples’ “Lovefingers”, Deheza’s dramatic delivery exudes a purposed clarity on “Painting a Memory”, even lending an aggressive tone to “Secret Days”.
Recalling Trent Reznor’s recent work, “Secret Days” finds the duo dropping atmospherics for a spirited jaunt through bass-laden industrial glitches, the next best thing to a Curve comeback. Compared to Ghostory and its pockets of heat beneath a glacial surface, Put Your Sad Down exudes warmth, its playfulness invigorating the ever-evolving SVIIB and further pushing the boundaries of the “nu gaze” movement.
Essential Tracks: “Put Your Sad Down”, “Secret Days”