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21 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 28, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

School of Seven Bells' full-length debut, Alpinisms, is best introduced with a little etymology: Mercurial French author Rene Daumal defined 'alpinism' as 'the art of climbing mountains.' Alpinists are both athletes and mystics. They practice 'pure' climbing, hands gripping the cragged incline sans rope or guide, forcing their bodies ever-upward in the name of earthly enlightenment. 'Alpinisms,' says Daumal enthusiast and guitarist Alejandra Deheza, 'are mountain-climbing songs.' Alpinism is an electronically enhanced Pop record of dizzying highs and claustrophobic lows, whose painstaking conception shows in its detail-laden crevices. On the album's best tracks 'the polyrhythmic dream-pop' of 'Face to Face in High Places'.

1. Iamundernodisguise
2. Face to Face on High Places
3. Half Asleep
4. Wired for Light
5. For Kalaja Mari
6. White Elephant Coat
7. Connjur
8. Sempiternal/Amaranth
9. Chain
10. Prince of Peace
11. My Cabal

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 28, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ghostly Int'l
  • ASIN: B001CVMDF6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,081 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mike Newmark on November 26, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Alpinisms is School of Seven Bells' first CD, but the band members are hardly strangers to music. The guitarist is one Benjamin Curtis, the same guitarist who famously left Secret Machines in 2007 before they produced the stiffest album in their catalogue. Twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza, the band's vocalists, were singers for the New York City post-punk outfit On!Air!Library!--which sounded as though they'd accidentally stumbled into Fugazi's studio on the way to see the Postal Service. And Claudia Deheza once holed up with Prefuse 73's Guillermo Scott Herren for a sensual, ethnically ambiguous one-off as A Cloud Mireya. Once the personnel found each other (while opening for Interpol) and School of Seven Bells was set in motion, they released two 7" records and collaborated with Prefuse 73 on his EP The Class of 73 Bells in what seemed like an attempt to figure out just what in the heck kind of band they wanted to be.

With Alpinisms, we get an answer: They want to be a dream-pop band. But that's not as simple as it appears on the surface, since modern day dream-pop can subsume shoegaze, twee-pop, and indie electronica, and School of Seven Bells incorporate all of those elements--the cascading guitars, the programmed beats, the sugary melodies grafted from the early `90s that will always remind me of licking a lollipop. It's a sound that, when executed well enough, can cause even the most fair-weather listener to go weak at the knees. School of Seven Bells hit the sweet spot with enough frequency to make Alpinisms worthwhile, and though not every experiment works, it should give those who have been following these musicians around some satisfaction to realize that this is the sort of album they've been waiting so long to create.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David M. Madden on November 20, 2008
Format: MP3 Music
Remember when you weren't so jaded and enjoyed music just because it perks your ears?

Alpinisms is an exciting, largely unique experience, appealing without the need of labels or even listener musical preference. Upfront, you have vocalists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, flitting from folksy Marianne Faithful to neutral intoned Ladytron style croons to innocent My Bloody Valentineisms (those are still a stretch, but my first description, "Mellifluously opulent peasant style", doesn't really hold water), the duo intimately harmonized with interplay that only two sisters could share. Their virtuosic melodic and lyrical content is a refreshing pause in the world of unmusicality that often taints the indie-rock (yes, that's a label, sue me) world. Underneath, disparate musical textures from all walks of life churn into a somehow inviting mélange, one moment Indian meets recent Depeche Mode ("Wired for Light"), the next, an autotuned "Electric Avenue" slathered with baritone guitars and dumbek accents ("Chain") then into reverb-trails-to-heaven vocals over stripped-down Joy Division rhythms and melancholia ("White Elephant Coat").

Fortunate for the world, Alpinisms is not a continuation of current trends or something you casually put on and dissect. It might take months to figure it out why you enjoy it so much. But I have a good idea to fill that space: just listen.

And I challenge you, once under its spell, to stop humming "Iamundernodisguise".
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey P. Smith on November 16, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I haven't had this much fun listening to an album since the heydays of the Cocteau Twins. Beautiful songcraft, and singing from two gorgeous voices create a mesmerizing listening experience. Ben Curtis cooks up a backdrop of atmospheric soundscapes for the Deheza sisters harmonizing, calling, responding and sounding utterly joyous. Add in the synth-beats and we have dream pop bliss... a splendid debut!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mark Eremite VINE VOICE on July 26, 2012
Format: Audio CD
School of Seven Bells was originally a triad composed of Benjamin Curtis and twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. From the get-go, their music has inhabited the static-saturated realm between progressive pop and the more experimental dreamwork that you get from bands typically labelled as "shoe gazers." But "shoe gazing" is far too laconic a term for music that uses complex choral choreography and unexpected harmonies to rein its energy down to a low, but persistent and inescapable, thrum.

Incomprehensible to some, the experimental, rolling structure of both the songs and their lyrics gives this band's work the flavor of horizons, making the tunes seem both gorgeously sculptured but also somehow distant and unembraceable. This is found as much in the names of each album as in the notes and words that are found inside them. Alpinism is supposedly the art of climbing, the culture of ascension. Disconnect from Desire seems to recall the fundamental precept of Buddhist enlightenment -- more ascension. And now Ghostory seems to represent another plane of reality, the passage from the physical plane to a place that is -- yet again -- always there but still out of reach.

I have had the exact same reaction to every album by this band. I have enjoyed every single one -- and recommend that you buy them -- but I have not fallen head over heels for them. They seem to keep listeners at a distance by operating on a sonic level that is nearly as removed and spiritual as their album titles, and although it is by all means beautiful, it is not always touching or touchable. (There's that horizon again.
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