School of Seven Bells

Alpinisms

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AllMusic Review by

Ben Curtis' desertion of Secret Machines and the breakup of On!Air!Library! was justified by this group's first single, a sky-gliding confection that modernized the sighing, swirling, private dancefloor sides of Medicine, Seefeel, and My Bloody Valentine. Included as the finale on Alpinisms, the debut album from Curtis and O!A!L!'s singing Deheza twins, "My Cabal" has the feel of a bonus track; the later recordings that precede it, despite remaining squarely within the domain of late-'80s/early-'90s dream pop in terms of inspiration, are relatively individualist, going well beyond the lucid psychedelia and discreet flickers of Afro-beat and contemporary pop. What pushes these songs past mere worship involves cunning collisions of robust rhythm, caressing noise, and heavenly melody, with each element equally crucial. Good shoegaze/dream pop bands mastered one of them; the most exceptional of the heap, like this group, had all three down. The most striking example here is "Wired for Light," seemingly spawned by Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Peek-A-Boo" and M/A/R/R/S' "Anitina," full of clacking percussion that rattles the ribs, Middle Eastern accents, gale-force atmospherics, and layered vocals that could be casting a spell. Other than a trip on the Krautrock railway to oblivion that occurs throughout the 12-minute "Sempiternal/Amaranth," not much resembles any of the members' past work. The Dehezas have found their true calling, their voices a better match for these crisp supernatural bliss-outs than the jagged, thorny sound of their former band. Unsurprisingly, there's a touch of otherness to the lyrics, apparently written as communications between (evidently English-speaking) members of a mythical pickpocketing academy -- called School of Seven Bells -- located in Colombia. No, you wouldn't know it without being told, and though most of the words can be made out, they're secondary to the sound of the absorbing voices swarming throughout these impossibly vibrant songs.

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