[See Tim Norris' slideshow here.]
"Look! The people from the Internet! They're here! They're real"
The dude saying these words at the School of Seven Bells show at the Echo on Wednesday night was being facetious, but there was a kernel of truth in there. The place was packed with a very mixed audience who had been lured to the venue to see in the flesh the trio of model-caliber lookers behind all those moody/dreamy photos online.
The band, guitarist Benjamin Curtis and vocalists/instrumentalists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, have deliberately exploited a mysterious, aloof, enticingly sexual imagery--some of the poses they strike in their press material try to imply the viewer has just walked in on a nonchalant threesome by international jet-setters with matching mystical tattoos who are getting it on mostly because they're bored and the opium delivery guy is a little late.
This, of course, is all pretend. What School of Seven Bells actually boil down to is a shoegazy trio with the usual influences (Cocteau Twins, Lush, Slowdive, as our own Kevin Bronson pointed out on his Buzzbands LA blog, plus the entire 4AD catalogue), now backed by a very powerful drummer.
The Echo show was plagued by more than a few technical problems that affected the performances. After Manimal Records' VoicesVoices played a short set of their loop-heavy material, Sacramento's Sister Crayon had a very difficult time with glitchy microphones. Since their synth act is so layered, the audience was confused for a while whether the glitches were intentional or not, the layered-synth version of hanging an impressionist painting upside down. But the glitches were not deliberate and a very frustrated Terra Lopez, the singer, soldiered on admirably even after the problem wouldn't go away.
The School of Seven Bells trio plus the drummer came onstage right away to set up their equipment, giving the audience a chance to check out the beautiful people in the flesh. The Deheza sisters unpacked their gear with the studied poise of finishing school debutantes, all stern eyes, straight backs, and tiny occasional smiles to themselves. Then, a long, long wait. The band left the audience for a while with an interminable DJ set (or was it a whole record played straight through?) blasted over the speakers.
Just as the jammed, hot crowd was starting to vocally complain, the School of Seven Bells emerged and delivered a solid, though a little monotonous set. The sound was again a problem, this time not because of any wonky mikes but because the vocals were mixed way too quiet (those twins, they're mysterious!) and given the Echo's acoustics the drums were overpowering the whole thing. Zach Saginaw has some amazing breakbeat chops, but here they were drowning the whole set pretty much until the encore.
The new material (the band was presenting their upcoming album Disconnect from Desire) is much more anthemic than their previous offerings. The interplay between Curtis' guitar and the drums sometimes pointed towards the familiar rousing groove of early U2. This U2/My Bloody Valentine vibe was noticeably throughout the set ("In the Name of Loveless"?), though the Dehezas' pained looks implied the lyrics were perhaps going elsewhere (hard to tell, as they were largely inaudible).
That said, we're looking forward to hearing these songs with the sound the band intended when the album drops in July
Set List (via Spin):
2. Dust Devil
5. Bye Bye Bye
7. I L U
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9. My Cabal