School of Seven Bells sounds like the cover for their last release, “Ghostory,” looks: It features a woman with a delicate olive complexion and dark eyes wearing an impossibly ornate veil, with incandescent glowing rings behind her in an eerie display of light and beauty. Those almond eyes stare directly ahead—not dead, necessarily, more like gone—and her lips, seemingly blank at first, show hints of a smile upon further examination. She is in an environment that seems both sterile and warm, pearly grey, and the image is at the same time tantalizing and softly unsettling.
The ethereal qualities that cover invokes are highly indicative of the sound created by the band, named for a fictitious South American crime academy and at one point fronted by twin sisters. School of Seven Bells relies upon sleepwalking, shoegazey soundscapes to frame the remaining twin, Alejandra Deheza—whose vocals flit easily between simmering passion and saccharine pop whilst winding through the entire silver-flecked cloud they possess like blood in a snow bank—and move seamlessly from trance-inducing to dance-provoking.
Deheza is joined by bandmate Benjamin Curtis on guitar, a second voice that allows School of Seven Bells to shift into a slightly fuzzier, scuffed-up version of itself. It adds conscious teeth to the proceedings, leaving a mark but never rending flesh, and plays the perfect counterbalance to Deheza. Together, the two voices intertwine and carry the entire sound forward, through opaque mists and more uptempo, approachable pieces—like Sleigh Bells slowed down on barbiturates. This particularly endearing sound is exemplified on “Show Me Love,” a cut whose swelling opening generates a slowly onsetting rush akin to the wave of warmth good MDMA arrives upon, before breaking and spreading into a more atmospheric structure.
“Lafaye” contains a touch of the dark edge found in goth pop, preceded nicely by a pitch-perfect post-punk guitar opener, backed by a four-to-the-floor beat and Deheza’s vocals, sultry lines that draw the piece firmly into dance territory. It is hard not to imagine girls in vintage dresses and floppy toques, eyes closed behind massive black framed glasses, spinning and singing along, lost within each other and “Lafaye.” It is the vaguely haunting timbre of the music to which they twirl that makes the scene of interest, something similar to a postmodern danse macabre—and do those skeletons not look to be having fun? (B. David Zarley)
April 28 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, (773)525-2508, 10pm. $15.