For the most part, tracing the genealogy of contemporary bands is straightforward. These days, save for a few black sheep, most bands’ patriarchs tend to be The Strokes, The Shins, The White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, etc. And yet, in a New York music scene where heterogeneity is constantly strived for but rarely reached, School of Seven Bells have created a sound all their own. They have achieved Uncategorizability, a level of innovation granted to a select few artists.
Ok, so maybe they’re a little categorizable. Perhaps they’re at the heretofore undefined midpoint between Bourne Identity soundtracks and Sigur Ros. And one certainly wouldn’t be ostracized for saying they’re an airier version of M83. Regardless, they’re new, different, and (above all) good.
At worst, Disconnect From Desire, their latest album, is a collection of songs that blend together because everything sounds the same. But at best, it’s the optimal relaxing background music (or perhaps foreground music, depending on the situation) for bed-lying, car-driving, and/or existential window-looking. This music is beyond chill – more than atmospheric. It’s stratospheric. Exospheric even. Up here, you may forget why any band even chooses to have a guitar track in their songs.
School of Seven Bells is vocal-centric, so the use of anything other than voices is extremely limited. There’s a bassline, perhaps a synth, and not much else. Employing front-twins’ Alejandra and Claudia Deheza’s celestial vocal chords as the primary means of melody ends up being a whole lot more practical than it is artsy – which is a surprisingly difficult balance to tip in one’s favor. Their voices on tracks like “Windstorm” will blow you away, if not for sheer awesomeness, then at least for pure novelty. Disconnect from Desire may not change your life, but it will open your ears to new possibilities.
Joe's Grade: B