Thursday, 8 March 2012

School of Seven Bells - Ghostory

It's always hard to cope with the loss of a member. School of Seven Bells separated with founding member Claudia Deheza in 2010 and haven't looked back since. They needed a new edge, something to focus on and something they could release in confidence. Stepping down as 'School of Seven Bells' wasn't an option so they opted to record their third studio album. Both previous albums were well received and had gorgeous synthetic sounds bringing 80's synth pop hand in hand with modern dream pop. 

Ghostory opens with the commanding 'The Night'. It has a Tears For Fears-esque synth line and the electronic drum beat widens the gap between synth pop and dream pop. This albums right bang in the middle, but it's not like Chairlift's recent effort, it's far more abrasive and ear catching. This is a splendid opening track and I can't help but label it the best opening track of 2012 (so far).  It swiftly ends with a little vocal segment before the scorching guitar drones of 'Love Play' enter and the ball of fire bass destroys all 'soft' perceptions of School of Seven Bells in 2012. This is heavy, it's also electronic and fake, but it's heavy and it captures my ear. The bass changes momentarily which seems to me like a recording mistake but it's intended for some reason, it sounds out of place. The vocals are lovely and sit nicely and surprisingly crisp above the instrumental.

Lead single 'Lafaye' proves to the world that they're not about to fade away and collapse. It has a stadium sound and it's loud, it's abrasive and above all, it's good. The guitar effects have been applied with caution, they have that crisp sound but also smooth and delicate feel which surprisingly works with the hard drum beat. The vocals are layered to perfection and you hear those vocal swooshes echo around the speakers. It's just a shame the album turns around and drives in the wrong direction after Lafaye. The following track 'Low Times' is pleasant enough, except it's incredibly repetitive and shows the weaker, blander sound to their music. At six and a half minutes, I expect better, it's just a shame they couldn't mix melody with pop hooks like the first few tracks.

The album fades away like a black sky. 'Reappear' has a nice synth opening, but it doesn't have anything to give other than the pr editable build up and shallow climax. 'Show Me Love' suffers from the same predictability. The electronic drum beat is common and lacks in sophistication, as does the vocal work and the guitar drones. Everything has just been thrown down the toilet. These tracks are not uplifting or ear catching, they're not sad or politically fuelled. I'm finding it hard to work out the purpose of this album, is it just to get back in the field, to start up again and work towards success?

'Scavenger' does have some improvements, and is among the few strong tracks on the album. Guitar work is satisfactory yet again, with content singing which has minimal effects compared to the previous six tracks. It does eventually get going with a spiralling synthesizer riff which just blasts it's way through the electronic percussion which is completely necessary to complete their sound. 'White Wind' continues the improved sound with a vigorous guitar riff with plenty of echo. The vocals have been layered adequately well, and give me something else to note other than the repetitive synth drones.  They do actually try and salvage things with the final track 'When You Sing', which has a fantastic synthesizer loop on the chorus with elevated sounds and vocal drones. The beat sticks out as one of the better loops on the album, as many of the beats sound too abrasive and similar.

It's not a case of 'better late than never' with School of Seven Bells. This isn't a football match where you can be losing in the 78th minute and winning in the 90th minute, it's an album, and School of Seven Bells fail to deliver a piece of all round solid material.


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