Sunday, 30 May 2010

SVIIB are back...

School of Seven Bells
Disconnect from Desire
Full Time Hobby
Release Date: 13/7/2010
Rating: 5/5

Right, so I interviewed Ben Curtis for HV a few days ago- hence an advance copy of the album. I’m in no way objective about this band, so the HV review is going to be done by someone else- but that’s not going to stop me from scribbling a few words about it here. It’s so good I had to write a review. Simple as.

So what does it sound like? More structured, firstly- that’s the thing that strikes you immediately. It’s still all pretty oblique, but there’s more of a sensation that you are being led through passages of verses and choruses rather than drifting sounds and textures linked by recurring riffs or vocal lines. Ben told me that they’d written the music before playing it all together this time around, and it shows. At times the album gets bizarrely close to electro-pop at its most driving, but usually peters out to a more krautrock ambience before it gets too mainstreamy. This aside, on cuts like ‘I L U’, it’s exactly this potential crossover that could lead to a wider audience for this criminally underrated band.

On first listen, the standout tracks are clearly ‘Windstorm’, ‘Dust Devil’ and ‘Babelonia’, but after a couple, new tracks like ‘Dial’ (incidentally Ben’s favourite) 'Bye Bye Bye' and ‘Camarilla’ come to the fore. It’s worth also saying that the flow is never broken by an overlong shitter like ‘Semipiternal/Amaranth’, as happened on Alpinisms; in general, Disconnect from Desire, whilst somewhat different in tone is superior purely for its consistency. This does mean that there are no amazing highs like ‘Wired for Light’ or ‘My Cabal’- there are merely tracks that are slightly better or worse than the average. The much more pronounced use of synthesisers does go some way to creating perhaps an undesirable uniformity to the sound of many of the cuts, but usually this impression is removed just in time by the entry of Ben Curtis’ guitar, more subtly employed, and downplayed in importance compared to their older material.

Above all though, it’s great to hear that Alpinisms wasn’t a fluke, that these guys can still pen a decent tune, and that the sophomore sickness hasn’t touched them. It’s not got the sheer creativity and experimentalism of their first, but it is still unmistakably the sound of School of Seven Bells, and thus absolutely essential. If this is their ‘difficult’ second album, then I can’t wait to hear what their third sounds like!

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