School of Seven Bells

Disconnect From Desire
June 24, 2010

Disconnect From Desire is only the second album from the group named after a mysterious South American school for pick-pocketers, but there’s nothing mysterious about it.

As with their first album, Alpinisms, twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza harmonise sweetly throughout the beyond-sky melodies but there’s a lack of original sounding material on this album. It opens with ‘Windstorm’; an alarming riff of noise followed by a cool chorus and sweet beat. ‘Babelonia’ and ‘Bye Bye Bye’ require some kind of endurance and albeit as they say, the lyrics are the most important thing in the song writing process, the album sleeve tells a rather different story. Yes, they seem intricate but conversely meaningless. I doubt this is the reality of the songs but they are far too abstract.

Take the following lines from ‘Heart is Strange’ as an example: “oh I used to think that this rage was living / but that movement feigns a lull so deceiving / when nothing has changed in your life.” It’s not just that they’re abstract but they’re sung with no regular rhythm to the melodies that accompany them. They certainly don’t need to adhere to the strict rules of pop music but a little synchronicity would help make this album more enjoyable to listen to. The lack of consistency in this element between songs makes it difficult to believe that the meaning and substance of the songs is buried within the lyrics. On ‘Dust Devil or I L U’, they’ve taken a completely different approach – bare, simple and repetitive lyrics with simple melodies and regular rhythms.

I spent some time trying to discern exactly what I didn’t like about this album and to be honest, all I could come up with was that it sounds, to my ears, dated. The harmonies are lovely but nothing new to this band and the instrumentation, despite employing an array of electronic devices and instruments, doesn’t sound contemporary. There’s still a clear attempt to create an eerie, weightless sound but Benjamin Curtis, the instrumentalist and producer of Disconnect From Desire conjures treble-heavy drum machine beats and an 80s power-syth sound. It’s not unpleasant to listen to but it’s not as avant garde as it somewhat claims to be.

School of Seven Bells keep company with some pretty significant players in the NY music scene such as Prefuse 73 and Blonde Redhead who they’ve also toured with, and they will be in Australia for Splendour in the Grass later this year. Perhaps it’s there, on the stage, that you’ll get a true and overwhelming sense of what makes School of Seven Bells such a well recommended band in other reviews. I don’t believe you’ll get it from this album.