A brief School of Seven Bells roundup

Aly of School of Seven Bells

Occasioned by their really wonderful show the other night at the Detroit Bar. It’s the third time I’ve seen them in a year and a half and each time has been great as well as engagingly different. In this case it was partially because Claudia Deheza couldn’t make the performance — I gather she was ill — but Aly did the solo turn more than well.

My OC Weekly feature article revolved around my interview with Ben Curtis while my latest Foxy Digitalis piece is a bit of a review of the show, talking about both them and the excellent openers Active Child.

All that and I admit to being a bit tickled when Ben noted between songs at one point that they had performed at Detroit before (and quite the show that was), saying how great it was, then pausing and wondering if it was that great. I said something like “Yes it was!” and he looked over, paused a second, stepped up to the mike again and went “Ned?” What can I say.

Ben of School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells once again nailed it last night…

SVIIB

…and I have photos. As per usual with me now, I guess, I was posting all over Twitter so once again for here, reworked commentary plus some representative photos and links and all. But basically, a treat of a night — if SVIIB had a better sound mix when I saw them back in May, the performance was still stellar and both openers were very good. Check all of ‘em out when you can, so without further ado, from start to finish:

Phantogram

Phantogram
— “…starting everything off with strobes, fog, THX soundbursts, dub level bass and shimmer and heavenly vocal hooks….Definite post-Cocteaus fix but so many years on it’s nice to hear unexpected beats. If the reggae/dub breaks are familiar the context is not entirely. They sound nothing like the XX, say, but are as dedicated to recombination. It’s also good — very good — to see a shoegaze/electronic duo where the division is not simply female=vocals, male=music but instead something where both are clearly keeping control of the music at all times, on different fronts….Their last song here is a killer, strong way to finish!”

Warpaint

Warpaint — “@masonicboomk8 mentioned their “Slumber Party vibe” and I can hear it, but it’s nice to hear the spiky energy also apparent in the performance. It’s not just moody and shadowy sounds but a certain bracing kick, a taut energy….Going to sound a little strange but it’s almost like the Chameleons play the Doors, without vocals (initially!). With vocals, meanwhile, the sense is of understated power, a careful contemplation. A Raincoats comparison is lazy, but works….Good harmony vocals too, and the drummer is a bit of a secret weapon. Again, like Phantogram, one hears new combinations of the past, a sense that everything is perfectly up for grabs. This could be 1969, 1982, now, 2019. The XX again come to mind and again not as direct comparisons….The quick driving tempo of the third song further destabilizes easy categorization of Warpaint. They aim for their own sound without apology….Meanwhile whatever mutilpart epic they’re playing now absolutely kills. Musical highlight of the evening so far, hands down….Now they’re rocking the three part harmonies! Gotta say this bunch impresses even more song for song.”

School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells — “….Goodbye to everyone’s eardrums! Frickin KILLING it and it’s just the first song. Seriously a great great band….The name of their album, Alpinisms, was well chosen — you get a sense of something powerful and clear ringing down from high crystalline heights, but with the force of a massive avalanche. The bass certainly ain’t hurting in this respect….It should also be said that Ben is perfecting his Bryan Ferry ’75 hairstyle….In some respects this is a classic case of needing to add little beyond the obvious. Everything is in ridiculously perfect sync cryptic but evocative visuals, massive walls of sound, serene tones cutting through the murk. A perfection of antipop pop. And yet the strutting sass on a number like the one right now IS pure pop, however buttressed and swathed in glowering murk….Main set over. My fear was that it couldn’t be as powerful as the May set — happily proved wrong. Back out now for the encore….Encore number has a throb pulse out of Suicide/Moroder, harmonies arcing like radar waves and pure Vapourspace build and rush and did I mention the feedback? (Ben’s guitar pedal setup is ridiculous in a great way.)”

School of Seven Bells — worth the hype

School of Seven Bells

Bluntly put but true. I came to School of Seven Bells fairly cold in terms of their collective background — and you wouldn’t believe how many people were shocked to hear that I had never heard any Secret Machines before (hey, I knew the name, I was just busy with other things!) — and what I heard of their recorded work was enjoyable and a grower, but didn’t immediately make me go “OMG greatest thing ever!” as so many other people did.

I’d heard enough reports about their live show, though, to know that catching them with Black Moth Super Rainbow (a good act, not the end of the world for me but the new album’s nice) when they played the Detroit Bar was kinda key. So it proved — to my slight surprise I ended up perched onstage a bit while the show started off well about halfway through it all turned spectacularly wonderful. All three members bring something different to the stage and the sheer monstrous blast of the music — electronic rigor/feedback explosion/keening harmony — was breathtaking and enveloping. Very much put me in mind of usual suspects — Chapterhouse’s Loop fetish, Curve’s similar tech/guitar combination, MBV of course — but with their own particular stamp. So yeah, catch ‘em.

Opening guy James Yuill turned out to be a pretty good act himself — ignore the ‘folktronica’ label, yeah he uses acoustic guitar and a live electronic setup but he has his own thing going and I wasn’t surprised to learn he’s remixed Patrick Wolf. Photo sets for both here and here and here’s some sample shots from both:

James Yuill

James Yuill

James Yuill

School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells

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