School Of Seven Bells, Ghostory

Published on February 28th, 2012 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Less Lee Moore

“So fair, yet so cold like a morning of pale Spring still clinging to Winter’s chill.”
The Two Towers, 2002

sviib ghostory

Althouth the name of the band is from a “mythical South American school for pickpockets,” School of Seven Bells could just as easily reference singer Alejandra Deheza’s magical vocals. On Ghostory, the band’s latest release, Deheza’s voice is crystalline, like ice fragments melting and freezing, re-melting and re-freezing. From a musical standpoint, too, Ghostory has a much chillier sound than the band’s previous albums. However, it is anything but off-putting. Ghostory is so marvelously seductive that I have listened to nothing else for the past week. I am in love with this album. It is the perfect soundtrack to the spring and perhaps even the rest of 2012.

Ghostory is a tremendous leap forward for SVIIB in every capacity: song structure, instrumentation, lyrics, and vocals. This may surprise those who supposed the band would falter after the departure of vocalist and keyboard player Claudia Deheza, who also happens to be Alejandra’s twin sister. While Claudia left under somewhat awkward and mysterious circumstances, her absence does not seem to have impacted the band negatively. Ghostory‘s album art could even be construed as paying a tribute of sorts to the band’s origins as a trio, repeating the motif of three interconnected circles.

Interestingly, vocalist and guitarist Alejandra Deheza and guitarist and producer Ben Curtis describe Ghostory as a more collaborative effort than SVIIB’s previous releases; the intense symbiosis of music, lyrics, and vocals on the album bears this out. Everything blends seamlessly without disappearing; the songs are dense, layered constructions which reveal more with subsequent listenings.

Despite the prevalence of synthesizers and effects, the music on Ghostory is not sterile or shallow. In fact, guitar and drums are a vital part of the band’s overall aesthetic. Curtis has also described the band’s process as a “vocals-first approach.” This seems apparent in Deheza’s vocal phrasing, which is frequently in accordance with the music and not the meaning of the lyrics, making them even more tantalizing and compelling.

“When you find you’ve been estranged from your own heart, and love was just a way to hide. And all the pain you thought you’d lost, you found again, in someone else”
(“Reappear”)

“You’ll never find love within, as long as you seek love from him, and he only takes from you what he can break, I’ll never take from you, babe”
(“Show Me Love”)

“You took me like a drug, to make you feel loved, to make you feel wanted, to make you feel fine”
(“Scavenger”)

The album’s press release describes the concept behind Ghostory as “the tale of a young girl named Lafaye and the ghosts that surround her life.” Deheza adds: “Everyone has ghosts. They’re every love you’ve ever had, every hurt, every betrayal, every heartbreak. They follow you, stay with you.” Such descriptions could point to the influence of a Japanese novel series of the same name. Ghostory (Bakemonogatari) “centers on Koyomi Araragi, a third year high school student who has recently survived a vampire attack, and finds himself mixed up with all kinds of apparitions; gods, ghosts, mythological beasts, and spirits.”

In keeping with the idea of storytelling, each song on Ghostory has a precise ending, but the seamless flow between each makes them seem like integral parts of a whole, establishing it as a true album and not just songs thrown together.

“The Night” is a perfect choice for the first single. It is immediately engaging and addictive. While “Love Play” is more sedate in tone, it is no less charming. “Lafaye,” the album’s second single is, if possible, even more irresistible, turning a somewhat more traditional song structure into something incredibly unique.

“Low Times” has a steady, sinister beat and lyrics to match. Despite sounding quite different, both “Reappear” and “Scavenger” have an indelible, haunting quality—as in poignant, persistent, and eerily evocative—perfect for the theme of the album. “Show Me Love” expands upon the aching qualities of “Love Play,” while “White Wind” is spooky and enchanting. At the risk of overusing an already overused word, the album’s closer “When You Sing” is epic. Deheza’s vocals are astonishing and captivating, but it’s just as easy to get lost in everything else that’s happening in the song, from subtle keyboard motifs to grandiose, sweeping drumbeats.

School of Seven Bells begins their tour for Ghostory on February 28. It will be interesting to see how the songs translate into a live setting. If they can pull it off, which I suspect they can, it’s going to be astonishing and beautiful. Just like the album itself.

Other bands, you are on notice.

Ghostory was released by Vagrant Records/Ghostly International on February 28. Check out School of Seven Bells’ website for more information, including links to purchase the album.

Tour Dates:
Tue Feb 28: New York, NY at Mercury Lounge
Thu Mar 1: New York, NY at Mercury Lounge
Wed Apr 4: Philadelphia, PA at Johnny Brenda’s
Thu Apr 5: Washington, D.C. at Black Cat
Fri Apr 6: Ashville, NC at Grey Eagle Tavern
Sat Apr 7: Atlanta, GA at The Earl
Sun Apr 8: Birmingham, AL at Bottletree
Tue Apr 10: Baton Rouge, LA at Spanish Moon
Wed Apr 11: Houston, TX at Fitzgeralds Downstairs
Fri Apr 13: Austin, TX at The Mohawk
Sat Apr 14: Fort Worth, TX at Modern Airt Museum of Fort Worth
Sun Apr 15: Kansas City, MO at The Riot Room
Mon Apr 16: Denver, CO at Larimer Lounge
Tue Apr 17: Salt Lake City, UT at Urban Lounge
Thu Apr 19: Los Angeles, CA at Echoplex
Fri Apr 20: San Francisco, CA at Rickshaw Stop
Sun Apr 22: Portland, OR at Doug Fir Lounge
Mon Apr 23: Seattle, WA at The Crocodile
Tue Apr 24: Vancouver, BC at Electric Owl
Fri Apr 27: Minneapolis, MN at Triple Rock Social Club
Sat Apr 28: Chicago, IL at Lincoln Hall
Sun Apr 29: Bloomington, IN at The Bishop
Mon Apr 30: Detroit, MI at Magic Stick
Wed May 2: Toronto, ON at The Hoxton
Thu May 3: Montreal, QC at La Sala Rossa
Fri May 4: Boston, MA at Brighton Music Hall
Sat May 5: New York, NY at Le Poisson Rouge

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