School Of Seven Bells: GHOSTORY

Mon Apr 02 2012

If I say “This sounds straight out of the 80s” every time it does, that will get tiresome, right?  I’d like to just put a disclaimer at the top of the site: Unless otherwise noted, every album I review sounds like it was made in the 80s.  But it would be more annoying to note the exceptions, I think; starting the occasional review with Note: This does not sound like the 80s is obviously a really stupid idea.  So I’ll just continue to belabor the point, because not doing so would be a disservice to artists who do sound fresh and purely modern.  Besides, retro does not necessarily equal shitty.

Ghostory, as it happens, sounds straight outta the 80s, but it is also a pretty sweet album.  Overall, it’s basically an equal cross between synthpop, bubblegum chick rock and shoegaze.  It’s got a few modern-sounding elements, like the dancepunk beat of “Low Times” and the cold keyboard bumps of “Reappear” and “White Wind” borrowed from Fever Ray, but even these trends have their roots in the 80s, so no extra points there.  You have to break an album like this down on emotional and artistic levels and forget about originality, and School Of Seven Bells scores pretty high in both categories.

Despite a resounding melancholy that might otherwise reek of apathy, there is a kinetic urgency propelling even the slowest tunes; you can feel the tension even when the beat is barely there.  Then there are tunes like “White Wind”, the sonorous collision of frantic and beautiful, and album closer “When You Sing”, spooky ambience that leads to bright airy pop that in turn is gradually overtaken by uncontrived darkness, although it’s so similar to My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon” that it almost makes you uncomfortable.  Hey, that’s the 90s!  Progress?

Actually, Ghostory is definitely progress, a clear step forward from 2010’s Disconnect From Desire, which was pleasant and more sonically eclectic but uneven and ultimately insubstantial.  Ghostory is purposeful and direct, sure of itself.  The arrangements are full, and the production leaves almost no white space, which would make for an oppressive lack of dynamic if not for the multitude of clever hooks and Alejandra Deheza’s increasingly confident and nuanced vocals.  It’s undeniably lacking in visceral excitement, but it captures the haunting dreaminess it’s aiming for.  SVIIB sounded like a project before; now it almost sounds like a real band.
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