School of Seven Bells is a rock/psych/electronic/drone band from Brooklyn, NY. They’ve recently released their second full-length record — soberingly titled Disconnect From Desire — on Santa Monica-based label Vagrant Records and Ann Arbor-based Ghostly International.
The record is very good — better than their first, I dare say. The precision melodies of the harmonized female vocals makes me want to compare them to Stereolab, but they’re really much more Kevin Shields-ish. A bed of texturally complex but largely droning electronic and guitars elements lay down a soft bed of noise on which the voices of twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza have ample space to soar.
I have seen an NPR article in which the band claims that the meaning of their name comes from some South American school for pickpockets, but I think this explanation reeks of bullshittery. Instead, I propose a much more likely and much more poetically relevant genesis of the name School of Seven Bells…
Ranna… the first, the smallest bell. Ranna the sleepbringer, the sweet, low sound that brought silence in its wake.
Mosrael was the waker… the bell whose sound was a seesaw, throwing the ringer further into Death, as it brought the listener into Life.
The above quotes are from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series of fantasy books, and they describes the first two of the seven bells used by necromancers to control the dead. Necromancy is an age-old magical practice where the summoner seeks to summon or control the spirit of a deceased person. In Nix’s books, the necromancer is a practitioner of this magic who use each of the seven bells to do this and that to dead people.
The bells were apparently very difficult to use, causing harm more often than not to the ringer of the bell if rung not-quite-right. Listening to School of Seven Bells new record — to the lyrics of songs like Heart is Strange — this theme seems close to the surface. Throughout, the deceptively simple and beautiful things in life seem to have turned on the song’s authors to reveal themselves as complex, overwhelming, and disappointingly hollow.
I might be way off on this, as art doesn’t necessarily implicate the author, but I sincerely hope that the band manages to find balance and satisfaction with their increasing artistic success and with the traveling musician’s lifestyle that I happen to know isn’t easy to maintain. Also, lord knows — any band with two tiny beautiful women in it must have to put up with more than their fair share of crap out on the road.
Anyway, they’ll be on tour all over North America for the better part of September and October, bringing them most likely to a city near you. Go out, see the show (which is pretty great, from my experience), find the band, and invite them over for a home cooked breakfast to send them on their way to the next gig. Let ‘em know you like their music, and that you appreciate them riding around in a van all over creation to bring it to you.