Monday, 4 April 2016

School Of Seven Bells "SVIIB" (2016)

In the mood for something a little more upbeat and poppy I found my way to the "School of Seven Bells" fourth and final record. This NYC based Dream Pop trio consist of twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra who grace us with their voices as well as handling keyboards and guitars, alongside them multi instrumentalist Benjamin Curtis who sadly passed away in 2013. The record was mostly written in 2012 before Benjamin's death and revolves around how the group first met. To what extent it was "finished" with his involvement is unknown to me, however its irrelevant considering this the first of theirs I have listened to.

Opening up with a simple popping 4/4 beat and a breathy, wordless vocal hook the album quickly establishes its tone with bright and simplistic musical arrangements. In the chorus two vocal lines harmonize and swim around one another while the strings, blinking synthesizers, distant guitars and bold pumping bass melt into a dreamy wall of sound. Its borders the Ethereal but no distinct sombre or dark tones are to be found. "SVIIB" is upbeat yet sleepy, its bright energy slightly contained behind a slower, measured pace. Each song brings a different twist to a very settled sound, most of the creative variety focuses around vocal hooks and delivery between a rather stale verse chorus structure. The band conjure some great arrangements drifting towards ambience and ranging up to epic climatic poppy moments with layered synths and fuzzy, energetic guitars crashing into the fold, usually with a few shimmering melodic notes above the golden haze. 

Given the records setting and history the lyrical context probably plays an important role however, as I often am with words, they went in one ear and out the other. Their voices however are soft and easy on the ears, the entire sound of the record is lush, easily indulgent and full of dreamy reverbs finely mixed in a glossy sound. Where the record falters is at its core, the simplistic and poppy nature leaves much to be desired musically. Just after a couple of listens the songs feel a little worn as it doesn't take long to pick up the compositions which are generally short and played out through verse chorus structures. There's no progression in mood, structure or even melody, rarely even a repeated segment undergoing a key shift or additional instrumentation. However these are complaints of preference.

The album does wrap up with its better songs, "Confusion" breaking into a deep peaceful atmosphere, very reminiscent of the soothing ambience in Julee Cruise's "Floating Into The Night". Following is a rather atypical track, however its execution and charm a lot stronger than the rest of the record. The chorus has a memorable synth lead that soars and shimmers in the fading reverb. Great moment but unfortunately this record was a little sparse of substance which became apparent after just a handful of listens through.

Favorite Tracks: Confusion, This Is Our Time
Rating: 5/10

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