Named after a mythical South American pickpockets’ academy that may or may not have existed, School of Seven Bells is what happened when former Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis started making music with identical twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza, previously of fourth-string post-rock outfit On! Air! Library! and occasional collaborators with Prefuse 73.
“We met while playing in other bands on tour”, explains Alejandra. “The seed was planted then, and as our situations changed, we realized that here was the perfect chemistry for us all to do what we love. Our friend Guillermo [Prefuse] mentioned that we should send something to Ghostly International, so we did.”
A year later, the band’s debut album on Ghostly, Alpinisms, is imminent – and what a floaty, ethereal bugger it is. Think Cocteau Twins and Panda Bear, with the tribal hubble bubble of Dead Can Dance or High Places. According to Alejandra, “it’s music that’s easy to visualize, but hard to describe. Vocals that are floating in a Cirrocumulus loud. Or maybe pop songs that got left in the freezer?”
For all its washed-out harmonies and cascades of overdriven guitar noise, Alpinisms is too tautly written and confidently crafted to be dismissed as mere nu-gaze. At times, it has more in common with classic German kosmiche, an observation borne out by the fact that Curtsie regularly plays guitar with Neu!’s Michael Rother. However, ask School of Seven Bells about their influences, and they’ll tell you about… Mountain-climbing.
Alpinisms was named after a coinage of French author Rene Daumal in his book Mount Analogue, and Alejandra is hearty in her recommendation of travelogues by legendary peak-botherers Hermann Buhl and Reinhold Messer. Life being short and all, we’re happy to take her word for it; School of Seven Bells’ music evokes all the snowy vistas and thin-air atmospherics we’re ever likely to need.