School of Seven Bells are named for a mythical South American pickpocketing academy, whereby trainee thieves can only pass if they’ve managed to offload items from a person without disturbing the seven bells attached to varying pockets. On this note, you might expect deep South American influences, or at the very least, the odd tinkle of a handbell sprinkled across the record. But, really, School for Seven Bells make music that’s just as fantastic and thought provoking as their name suggests. It’s thrilling, dreamy electropop.
Ghostory is the third record from the group, following 2008's Alphinisms and 2010's Disconnect From Desire, their first since the departure of vocalist Claudia Deheza – for "personal reasons" – in 2010.
How have they survived? They’ve thrived. Remaining twin Alejandra breathes fresh life over delicious synths, while former Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis provides strong, medlodic backing to her faultless vocal.
If you haven’t downloaded free track “The Night”, you should. Now. It’s glorious. Cute and upbeat and perky like the opening track to a John Hughes film, it’s ethereal with a base in reality. Is it too much to call it out as probably the best start to an album of 2012 thus far? I’d go there.
And throughout the record, you should expect ethereal vibes with a 90s-esque bassline to stamp your feet to, like a lovechild of Morcheeba and Stone Roses. This Britpop attitude is best seen on “White Wind” - along the lines of Dodgy, if they were fed into a computer and came out like a synth smoothie. “When You Sing” melds the atypical shoegazing trance with melodic guitar thrashes, in an eight minute indulgence that probably stretches on several minutes longer than entirely necessary, despite closing the record. "Scavenger" is super groovy, and “Lafaye” thrums with hungry drums and a disco edge.
SVIIB are great when they delve deeper into a shozegazy trance, as on second track “Love Play”; slower and seductive in comparison to the pop punch delivered by “The Night”, lyrics are breathed into word bubbles that flounder and rise. It’s here that one can really appreciate just how unfalteringly pure and sweet Deheza’s voice really is. “Reappear” is quiet but effective - like touching a finger to a pool of water and watching the waves unfold slowly outwards as it does with this sound. But it’s when they mesh the two sounds together that things get a little more interesting. “Show Me Love” recalls a slow burn akin to Sneaker Pimps’ Six Underground, like it should soundtrack the segments in late ‘90s/ early ‘00s flicks where everything goes a bit slow motion. And “Low Times” does as it says. Intriguingly restrained, the intricate guitar work scratches away at the synth surface, and there’s hole-puncher drums ahoy. It’s forward without being aggressive.
Ghostory is an album of paradoxes that just work: it’s mythical but real and fresh, but decidedly nostalgically comforting. Never mind the pickpocketing, this is an education for the ears.