School of Seven Bells: Disconnect From Desire Review (Four Takes)
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on Disconnect From Desire by School of Seven Bells.
Alison Stolpa (Modern Radio)
I’ve always wanted to like School of Seven Bells, but I just can’t get past my early impression that they’re Cocteau Twins Lite. This latest album, “Disconnect from Desire,” hasn’t done much to dispel those notions; it doesn’t have the kick, the bite, the edginess necessary to stand out from the rest of the purveyors of swirly dreampop. Of course, my heart is black and when I sneeze little bats fly out and
recite stanzas from Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal,” so if, on the other hand, there’s someone you’re trying to lure into the world of Slowdive et al, (or maybe you just like accessible shoegazey pop) this
would serve as a decent gateway album. The tracks are consistently pleasant if not life changing, and things do get more interesting as “Disconnect” draws to a close. “Camarilla” is particularly catchy,
and “Bye Bye Bye”—while not the NSYNC cover I was expecting/hoping for—hints at what School of Seven Bells could be like if they spent a weekend in the desert with a bunch of hallucinogenic toads and a synthesizer and allowed themselves to truly get weird.
It would be unfair to call Disconnect From Desire a sophomore slump. The empyreal harmonies of twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza are as lovely as ever, floating listlessly over the top of Benjamin Curtis’s plaintive guitar. Throughout the album, melody takes a backseat to polyphony and an empyreal ambience at times approaching medieval chant. Opener “Windstorm,” provides the album’s most memorable moments, evoking My Bloody Valentine at their best. However, the instrumentation and production throughout the rest of the LP feels dated, with a synthesizer and a drum machine coming straight off the dance floor of a 1986 high school prom (imagine a Hildegard von Bingen / Flock of Seagulls collaboration). While the album doesn’t have an offensive moment, there’s nothing especially innovative about the sound, and the emotional pallet runs from taupe to ecru.
Jon Behm (Reviler)
Though initially I felt that the easybake melodies on School of Seven Bells sophomore record Disconnect From Desire were somewhat compelling synth pop jams, something always kept me from really enjoying them. What I came to realize is that it is exactly that dancepop by numbers smoothness that nags me – without a rough edge or challenging sound, Disconnect seems like an album by a band that has yet to mature. I am not saying that maturity necessarily equates a serious, somber sound, but these songs sound like they would best be suited for the soundtrack of a kids movie (have they decided to remake Legend yet?). A few of the tracks (like the record’s first two songs, “Windstorm,” and “Heart is Strange”) sort of work through sheer catchiness, but for the most part Disconnect left me feeling the “cop nearing retirement” adage “I’m too old for this shit.”
It starts with what sounds like a robot children’s chorus, and from there we’re off, riding the percolating synth textures and gauzy guitars. School of Seven Bells specializes in a particularly early 90s mix of shoegaze and polite dance rhythms, one that reminds me of the long-gone Minneapolis band February or some sort of heretofore unimagined collaboration between Lush and Luscious Jackson.
God they can arrange a record. I swear there’s not a second that feels out of place or unassured. Guitars, vocals, synths, drums, and drum machines are all perfectly (and heavily) processed, creating an effortlessly android pop. It’s a testament to craft, if not great songwriting. Sometimes you begin to suspect that there’s less here than meets the eye, as they build songs that recall gleaming, modern skyscrapers – all one-way mirrors and stainless steel, circular drum loops and dispassionate, icily gorgeous female vocals. Sternly designed Scandinavian leather couches and air conditioned gusts of digitally optimized guitar noise. Gurgling sequencers and cold marble countertops.
It’s an album of surfaces, a river of glass you could skate away on.
School of Seven Bells: Myspace