Release Date: Nov 13, 2012
Record label: Vagrant
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
In the accompanying press release, Benjamin Curtis claims that his latest EP with Alejandra Deheza as School of Seven Bells, Put Your Sad Down, is “the most fun Alley and I have had making music in a long time,” and it shows. It’s as if the duo has exorcised the ghostly haunt of their last album by undertaking the action of the EP’s title. A sprawling epic of an opening, the title track begins with a crash course in what has made SVIIB so alluring over the past five years, namely, the fuzzy, ethereal sounds of shoegaze blended with gothy synthpop undertones.
School of Seven Bells' 2012 LP Ghostory was loosely structured around the character Lafaye, who finds herself consistently confronted by ghosts, but not of the "boo!" variety. For singer/lyricist Alejandra Deheza, ghosts represent the very real emotions that arise from deeply personal past events-- particularly those that aren't blessed with a sense of closure-- and which manifest themselves bodily as stress, or a general sense of unease. Not anything near the leap forward that 2010's Disconnect from Desire, was from 2008's Alpinisms, Ghostory was more Deheza and Ben Curtis doubling down on the group's foundational conceit: a meditative confrontation with the shackles of guilt-- what Depeche Mode called "a halo in reverse.
Following up the chilly, gothic-tinged electro-pop of this year’s well-named Ghostory, School of Seven Bells (currently duo Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Deheza) have gotten even chillier and more gothic with the Put Your Sad Down EP. Like Ghostory, Put Your Sad Down is frustrating because of its detachment. Deheza’s voice can be bone-chilling, but she never sounds like a human being—singing behind impenetrable smoke-screens of reverb, framing every zonked-out melody with the same robotic poses; meanwhile, Curtis’ production is tiring: always cranked to 11, downplaying dynamics and texture in favor of full-throttle programming and blindingly bright synth blasts.
One might’ve expected a stylistic shift in School Of Seven Bells after Claudia Deheza left the band in 2010, just months after the release of their second album, Disconnect From Desire. But in recording this year’s follow-up, Ghostory, between tours the remaining duo of her twin sister Alejandra (“Alley”) Deheza and guitarist Ben Curtis (ex-Secret Machines) produced a very similar-sounding (and better) album. Multi-tracked vocals allowed Alley to harmonize with herself, while their blend of shimmering Cocteau Twins-brand texture, new-wave synths and drum-machine beats sounded as crisp and mesmerizing as anything they’d released.