School of Seven Bells (Live Review)

Artist: School of Seven Bells
Venue:Scala (King’s Cross, London)
Date: Tuesday 20th July, 2010

Dream pop architects School of Seven Bells are almost defiantly niche in their style. The casual listener must work hard to wade through the electro-Spector productions of new album Disconnect From Desire (and its slightly more lo-fi predecessor Alpinisms) to share in the adoration the band receive from its growing following. Those already on the inside could have been forgiven feelings of anxiousness while awaiting the band’s arrival on stage at London’s Scala last night. On record the band posses an enviable mix of cutting edge (subtle, guitar-infused electro) and mystique (alluring twin sister harmonies, abstract lyrics), and the uneasy mood in the audience concerned how successfully this mix could be recreated live. However, as opening track Half Asleep crashed in to being, the capacity crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief as it became clear that these elements were not purely the result of studio trickery. With the addition of a live drummer to the keyboard/drum machine/guitars combination of Benjamin Curtis and twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, the band reproduced selected tracks from both releases, often walking the fine line between static electronica ensemble and edgy indie guitar band while doing so. Movement and interaction was minimal, although they were clearly enjoying themselves, with smiles replacing the anticipated pretentious scowl. With a style regularly described as ethereal, and occasionally as a less-organic Stereolab, the band made their way through other favourites such as the livelier My Cabal, and the extended, building encore of Chain. Less established tracks from Disconnect From Desire blended in perfectly with previous material, almost to the point of monotony, and the freshness of the album’s release (just a week prior to this performance) didn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm as they cheered the intro to new song Windstorm. Both Deheza sisters exuded a mesmerising and sultry presence, Claudia from behind keyboards backing up the lead vocals of Alejandra, both glued together by the sweeping guitar textures of former Secret Machines member Benjamin Curtis. The repetitive nature of the performance was evident; many songs were of similar tempo, with comparable floating vocal melodies and synthesiser pad layers. However this is in keeping with the concept of School of Seven Bells, a concept that was fully (and ethereally) realised on stage at Scala.

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