Often times, we find that a bit of clarity pays off huge dividends. For the second album from School of Seven Bells, Disconnect From Desire, this is precisely the case. A few years of touring since their last release, and those moments of clarity provide for an entirely different listen than their previous album, Alpinisms.
While the band once coated their sound in a bit of fuzz and indifference, the moment you hear “Windstorm”, you can tell the group has flipped the table over, revealing a more pristine, electronic version of themselves. For one thing, the production has the Deheza sisters coming off a bit clearer, even with the tribal chanting in the background. Sonically, they sound as if they aged, like a fine wine, getting better with as time’s passed.
But, the bread and butter of Disconnect From Desire has to live in the darker elements of the record. “Heart is Strange” probably sounds really powerful in a venue, but in your home stereo, there’s an element of smoke filled clubs coated in debauchery. This isn’t to say that the band is hinting at such things with their lyrics, but you can almost feel yourself sinking into a sense of despair, albeit an exuberant sort of despair. “Dust Devil” evokes a similar quality with its driving rhythms, and vocals that seem to just float atop the air. For some reason, this track evokes a weird monastery feel, perhaps its the way the twins carry the notes, almost to the point of chanting.
Using a minimal amount of instrumentation, however, does create a bit of redundancy throughout the entire listen. It’s not that School of Seven Bells can’t write good tracks, as it’s clear they have that power, it’s just that the album doesn’t have a lot of variance; it blends together a bit, and gets mundane. “ILU” and “Camarilla” use really delicate vocals from the girls, but their voices are so distinctive, that if you placed these songs back to back, which they’re not, you might find it hard to completely tell the songs apart from one another. Perhaps some will find this attribute infinitely rewarding, as many people love their electronics with a solid vocal behind it.
All that being said, one track will surely stand out for every listener. You’ll find this hook on “Bye Bye Bye,” where the programmed element alone is enough to keep this track on repeat for prolonged periods of time. Oddly, the girls sound a bit younger here, almost a bit more refreshed. A few more tracks like these placed carefully around the album, and you’d probably have Disconnect From Desire in the running for album of the year. Just promise yourself you won’t miss this track.
All in all, progress has been made, and it seems a great deal more rewarding for all parties involved with concerns to Disconnect From Desire. A dark quality resides throughout the album, but it comes in the form of moving electronic flourishes, clear, for the most part, of the elemental noise that was present in the past. School of Seven Bells have made an honest record, and one that now seems to match their electric live performances.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/SchoolOfSevenBells-Windstorm.mp3]
Download: School Of Seven Bells – Windstorm [MP3]