Album review by Andy L
Wrap the duvet tightly round your shoulders and huddle in close; with a torch clasped under their chin School Of Seven Bells are ready to hold court and share stories of the supernatural – whether these tales are filled with hauntingly beautiful apparitions, or are a pillow clenching nightmare, may all depend on your perception.
When, back in 2010 the New York shoegaze and electronic pop merchants decided to ‘Disconnect From Desire’ they couldn’t have anticipated that they would also be disconnecting the core of their fan base. On one side of the fracture stood those who felt that what they now heard was significantly less imaginative, inventive or experimental than the trio's debut LP. The rest however, heard a record that was cohesive, streamlined and more accessible than its predecessor, and crucially, a record filled with a strength of song writing that could deliver them to more widespread acclaim. If you fell into category one then you may wish to abandon reading right now, your time could be better served. If however you belonged to the latter community, as we at The Sound Of Confusion did, then stick around.
The reason why some have now trooped out of the room mumbling, and left the rest of us to expectantly read on in peace, is that third album 'Ghostory' sees School Of Seven Bells pick up where they left off last time out and serve up what is, in the main, more of the same. Not everything has remained as was, three has now become two following the departure of keyboard player and dual vocalist Claudia Deheza, but, without in any way wishing to decry her contribution, stylistically if any remodelling and gluing has taken place you’ll be hard pushed to identify the joins.
Indeed what we’re greeted with for the vast majority of the record is an overwhelming sense of the familiar. The trademark crystalline vocals, cascading guitars riffs and detached beats are all present right from the off, as opener ‘The Night’ rolls in to the icy pop of ‘Love Play’ (very reminiscent of Madonna’s ‘Frozen’) and then on to the LP’s strongest moment - the chiming and crunching ‘Lafaye’. From that point forth however, it’s slightly disappointing to report that what follows is, while certainly competent, not as memorable as it should be. Where on ‘Disconnect...' tracks such as ‘Bye Bye Bye’ or ‘ILU’ stood up and demanded to be noticed, in this instance the remaining six offerings wash by without really managing to stamp their authority on preceedings. ‘Reappear’ has an eerie appeal, ‘Scavenger’ shows single potential, and eight minute closing track ‘When You Sing’ contains its sparkling sections, but all told this feels a little too comfortable, everything residing in its right spot but not leaving space for those twists and special moments that can elevate songs from good to great
Overall there’s still enough here to keep firm fans of the band more than happy, but to herald it as an unmitigated success would be doing the talent of School Of Seven Bells a disservice. The ghosts of their past have caught up with them on this LP, the challenge next time is to lay them to rest good and proper.
Free download: 'The Night'
School Of Seven Bells' website
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