School of Seven Bells - Ghostory (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

School of Seven Bells

Ghostory (2012)

Vagrant Records

With their new album Ghostory, School of Seven Bells seem to have traded one set of siblings for another. While bassist/vocalist Alejandra Deheza has lost her sister, keyboardist/vocalist Claudia, fellow member Benjamin Curtis seems to have brought in brother and former Secret Machines partner Brandon in for production duties. How much Brandon actually contributed to the songwriting process is debatable, although it certainly is a coincidence that he would helm the band's biggest, lushest sounding release to date.

Then again, School of Seven Bells have been gradually approaching this more crowd-pleasing sound with each release. Alpinisms was pretty droney, but Disconnect From Desire added some more dream pop to their shoegaze soup. Ghostory is simultaneously a tighter and more expansive take on that record's sound. Tracklisting wise, it comes in at a mere nine songs. But the songs are still pretty darn atmospheric, especially on the eight-and-a-half-minute closer "When You Sing."

While I'm sure losing Claudia will affect the stereo effect of the female vocals live, School of Seven Bells don't sound too different here. The only difference is that Alejandra is harmonizing with herself instead of someone else; she still brings the same haunting approach as before.

Comparison wise, the band still seems to have taken lessons from Ladytron and My Bloody Valentine's "Soon," although there are also the electropop leanings of Kavinsky and tourmates M83 present this time around. It's just different enough from the band's previous output to throw fans for a loop, although I'm sure casual listeners will just think, "Oh, more dreamy soundscapes."

Then again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. School of Seven Bells have yet to put out a consistent album, let alone a perfect one. While their output has always been of high quality, their records always hit a droning rough patch, and Ghostory is no different. While opening tracks "The Night" and "Love Play" have massive single appeal, the tracks leading up to "When You Sing" do kind of blur together after a while. They're pretty and are totally meant to carry people off, granted, but I don't have that problem with Loveless or Before the Dawn Heals Us. All the same, Ghostory is yet another solid release from a band finally poised to outproduce its members' other projects.