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School Of Seven Bells - 'Ghostory'

Guys... the point of dream pop isn't to make you doze off

  • Release Date 27 Feb, 2012
  • Producer Benjamin Curtis
  • Record Label Full Time Hobby
  • Fact They are named after a mythical South American pickpocket training academy
4 / 10
If School Of Seven Bells were a story told by shivering scouts around campfires before their nightly woodland molestations, they’d be The Spectre Of The Shoe, the immaculate apparition that rose from the swirling mist of the shoegazing revival in 2006 wailing like the undead spirits of Slowdive and Cocteau Twins shagging in space. But before you call in Derek Acorah to exorcise pop, their story has reached an inauspicious climax. Just as they had their hands around the sleeping throat of popular culture, ready to leap down its neck and possess its puppet soul, School Of Seven Bells were blown clean apart by Going Enya.

Did I miss a meeting? Sometime last summer did all the brilliant New York atmos-pop bands like SOSB and Chairlift get together and
go, “Right, we’re all going to cynically and wholeheartedly embrace the gothier end of the ’80s synth revival, even though it’ll make us all sound like wafty versions of Opus III, ‘Tango In The Night’, Wilson Phillips, Tiffany and T’Pau”?

This third album from ex-Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Deheza from On!Air!Library! shows precious little sign of the lush, mystical majesty of ‘My Cabal’ or their Eastern-tinged debut album ‘Alpinisms’, nor the glossy effervescence of the era they’re now aping. The My Bloody Valentine sonic warps are kept tamely at bay with scuttling gothtronic beats (until the final eight-minute ‘When You Sing’, the album’s best track despite being MBV’s ‘Soon’ on snooze) and the melodies are just in focus enough to be clearly lacking hook, shiver or thrill. What used to feel like surfing amid the cumulonimbus suddenly feels like snorkling in soup.

Admittedly ‘Ghostory’ does have a unifying narrative thread detailing the ghosts of relationships haunting a central character called Lafaye, and it does have its uplifting moments. ‘The Night’ is a moderately catchy ’80s synth frolic, ‘Low Times’ unleashes SOSB’s (limited) dancefloor potential by being pleasantly funksome in a goth Rapture sort of way, and ‘White Wind’ verges on essential with its propulsive throb of demonic Depeche Mode deviance. But none of it even scratches the arse of ‘euphoric’ – once their forte. The dense, spectral layers of earlier albums seem popped like soap film, leaving music recalling oil-sheen on a puddle or an ice-rink carpeted in velvet;cthe soft sinking surface soon gives way to cold impenetrability. It’s a bone-shattering clash, but one that’s increasingly en vogue in the basements of New York. Wrap up warm, looks like it’ll be a brittle Brooklyn winter.

Mark Beaumont

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