Since watching their revelatory performance at the Ghostly International CMJ showcase two weeks ago, the School of Seven Bells have accompanied me every day, lilting my step on morning commutes and late night walks with their dreamy soundscapes and yearning anthems.
A new addition to Ghostly's eclectic roster of artists, the Brooklyn-based School of Seven Bells is comprised of guitarist Benjamin Curtis, formerly of the psych-rock outfit Secret Machines, and the seraphic twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, whose soaring harmonies stand out on the Bells' debut album, Alpinisms.
Alpinisms is a particularly apt title for an album whose songs inspire the kind of transcendental feelings one finds atop wind-swept summits. In fact, the album title is a derivation of René Daumal's concept of alpinism, which he defined as "the art of climbing mountains." For the Bells, alpinisms are "mountain-climbing songs," both literally and metaphorically.
From the glitchy tribal beat and choral chant of opening track, "Iamundernodisguise," to the starry sequencing and imploring verse of the closer, "My Cabal," these songs offer a cadence to carry the everyday climber through both peak and valley. A quote from Daumal's "Mount Analogue" might describe the general tone of Alpinisms best: "There is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know..."
By their very optimism, the School of Seven Bells manage to eschew any shoegaze comparisons that might come readily to listeners making hasty judgments. While likenesses to the lush guitar tremors of My Bloody Valentine and the ethereal vocals of The Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser are notable, the Bells offer something new entirely. They make being a stargazer relevant again, albeit one teetering on a rocky precipice.