School of Seven Bells @ Urban Lounge 09.01

Posted September 6, 2012 in
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Photo: Justin Hollar

The last time I saw School of Seven Bells, they were touring on their first album and readying the release of their second. Since their third LP, Ghostory, was released, I had not had the pleasure of acquainting myself with their new keyboardist after the exit of Claudia Dehaza. The group did not disappoint.

 
One of the best things about School of Seven Bells’ first two albums was the harmony between the twin Deheza sisters. SVIIB has a new touring keyboardist, and she didn’t let us down. It shows that the magic of twins may just be in my head. On songs like “Windstorm,” I couldn’t tell the difference between the remaining Deheza sister, Alejandra, and her sister’s replacement.
 
I was happy to see Salt Lake supporting such a good act, and even though NY is 1,000 miles away, the Willisamsburg-ian residents of the lower Aves and the 9th and 9th district traveled the distance. They even managed to bring their boat shoes and tight pants along for the gyrating ride. Unlike most shows at this venue, the crowd was not speaking in the wings, but corralled into “The Holding Pen,” as I like to call the rail-lined dance floor in front of the stage, and hanging on every extended vocal harmony that Deheza began and finished. She is as good as she ever was. Her voice retains the clarity and emotion from 2008’s Alpinisms and it still stands out from the over-modulated tones you might find the modern pop/electronic dance genre.
 
I felt the same sort of cacophonic overwhelming sound that happened at the first SVIIB show I caught in September 2010, as I did this weekend, which isn’t a great thing. It isn’t Urban’s sound technician’s fault either. This band may add too many layers. The vocal harmonies are good enough. I’m not sure they should be buried under 5,000 layers (hyperbole notwithstanding) of reverb from multiple keyboard loops and two electric guitars. Fortunately, they don’t bring a bassist into the mix or things might have gotten more muddled.
 
I did enjoy the circular light show that the crew brought along. Sans substances—and, for once, I’m serious about this—I closed my eyes and saw tracers from the intricate patterns of light pumped out of the LEDs attached to three interlocking circles on the left and right of Deheza.
 
I snagged a setlist after the show, in case you’d like to recreate the experience with your SVIIB albums:
 
Windstorm
No Disguise
Bye Bye Bye
Scavenger
ILU
Love Play
My Cabal
Lafaye
White Wind
Low Times
When You Sing
 
“Windstorm” is one of my favorite songs and it still holds its own among their most recent material. I also really enjoyed the new tracks from Ghostory that I am not as well acquainted with. I did listen to a leaked version of their first single but much prefer encountering albums as played by the band. A recording is great but imagine going back in time and seeing your favorite group play your favorite song for the first time. So I didn’t spoil it by listening to Ghostory and this strategy worked this time. Other groups that aren’t as good at replicating their recorded sound can disappoint with a blind viewing of tracks but SVIIB is good enough that their albums sound as dialed in as their live sound. How is this accomplished? Expert craftsmanship? Perhaps, more likely it’s just a lot of practice.
 
See this band live when you can. They still have it.
Photos:
Photo: Justin Hollar