Review of School Of Seven Bells' album 'Alpinisms' released through Full Time Hobby.
When Benjamin Curtis walked out on his brother and previous band The Secret Machines in the early part of 2007 many commentators at the time wondered if he'd had some kind of nervous breakdown. Their second album 'Ten Silver Drops' had slowly but surely made an impact on both sides of the Atlantic, while their opening slot on several dates of Oasis' 'Don't Believe The Truth' world tour gained them an unlikely fanbase in previously unchartered territories for a band of such experimental persuasion.
Little did we know that Curtis was already masterminding his return to the music business in such a dramatic fashion, lest the fact his latest project School Of Seven Bells was actually three years in the making beforehand. Indeed, to credit only Curtis with the making of 'Alpinisms' would be doing a great disservice to his co-conspirators, twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza, as it is their delicately poised, and ultimately luscious harmonies that undoubtedly lift this record from being generic guitar-led ambience into something quite sublime and referential.
Indeed, for a record that has taken so long in the making, 'Alpinisms' doesn't sound quite as polished as one would have expected it to, and like their louder, noise-driven live shows, has a slightly more organic feel that suits both the flow of the songs and the non-formulaic nature of the album itself. Although School Of Seven Bells have been embraced by the shoegaze crowd, largely due to limited edition debut single 'My Cabal' being released by Sonic Cathedral not to mention Robin Guthrie's initial remixing of said song, there are moments on 'Alpinisms' that fall quite easily into the realms of leftfield dance ('Connjur'), world music mantra ('Iamundernodisguise') and even progressive rock behemoth ('Sempiternal/Amaranth').
That said, the likes of 'Chain' and 'Face To Face On High Places' both owe a huge debt to latter day My Bloody Valentine in terms of the looped, reverb-heavy recording process, not least on the vocal effects which could occasionally be mistaken for Bilinda Butcher performing a duet with Liz Fraser; no bad thing, by any means either. The re-recorded version of 'My Cabal' that closes 'Alpinisms' resonates in a more anthemic guise than its previous incarnation, closing proceedings in an almost perfect manner that pretty much encapsulates what School Of Seven Bells are all about.
There may be a few moans and groans about how 'Alpinisms' has been available on import for the past six months, and of course those "in the know" will already have burnt a hole through their CD since September of last year playing this to death. However, it is the timeless quality of 'Alpinisms' which makes no difference to the fact some of these songs were first written in 2004, recorded a year later and released in the States in 2008 yet still ultimately sound relevant regardless of the ever-changing nature of musical climates or fads.