Best Books of the Month Shop Costumes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Joe Bonamassa All-New Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote Subscribe & Save Introducing Handmade New Kitchen Scale from AmazonBasics Amazon Gift Card Offer hog hog hog  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Voyage  McCartney Shop Now Kids Halloween
Customer Review

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite., February 28, 2012
This review is from: Ghostory (Audio CD)
The concept surrounding Ghostory is flimsy at best - the running narrative of a girl named Lafaye and all the ghosts that one would expect to surround a girl with such a Victorian name. The loss of Claudia Deheza robs School of Seven Bells of one of their most distinctive characteristics, the angelic, unearthly harmonizing between Claudia and twin sister Alejandra. Yet Ghostory, the band's third record and their first as a duo, is uncommonly strong and surefooted, a remarkable transformation of their gossamer-thin dream pop into something vigorous and visceral. Where 2010's lackluster Disconnect from Desire was all style and little substance, Ghostory is surprisingly forceful and direct in its message, one that melds almost seamlessly the sublime drone of My Bloody Valentine with the nostalgia of M83. It's dreamy and hopelessly untethered from straightforward pop, like School of Seven Bells have always been, yet for the first time Ghostory sounds like the work of an organic, spontaneous band, rather than the determined sculptors of hypnotic, icy shoegaze they had seemed content to remain.

Ghostory carries with it connotations of magic and spirituality, and if there's an ideal word to describe Alejandra Deheza's vocals, a good place to start would be "otherworldly." Hers is a voice that prefers to soar rather than coo, speeding along through a storm of synths or layering on top of itself many times over, a more ethereal Florence Welch or a druggier Natasha Khan. At times it seems fragile, like on the soft, sprawling "Reappear," shimmering above waves of reverb, but that's an illusion - Deheza has never sounded as confident yet so tempestuous, more in touch with what she's singing than ever before. School of Seven Bells have always tended to focus on the trees rather than the forest - as a result, the music they crafted was, more often than not, opulent but uncomfortably empty, something beautiful that could be admired but never touched. Opener "The Night" swiftly puts that notion to sleep: "our meeting lit a fuse in my heart / devoured me, devoured me," Deheza sings, and it's lovely and airy, as she always is, yet there's a passion and a sensuality here that has been hard to find with this band.

The music seems effortless, which is an accomplishment in itself given just how complicated School of Seven Bells makes things. There's a veritable blizzard of effects here, washing tones out while they brighten others, coalescing in misty bursts of guitar and mesmerizing drum attacks, a steady, mutating bass line bubbling constantly underneath. Benjamin Curtis' former work as a member of The Secret Machines informs every aspect of the production here - that space-rock trio specialized in widescreen, full surround sound operas, the proggiest of the prog. That love of expanse, of wide open sound filling every space and constant shifts into lulls and crescendos, is what defines Ghostory. Deheza's vocals are the driving force, of course, but the way Curtis makes the music dive into your headphones - at points rolling to an ecstatic high on the frantic "White Wind," at others reducing things to a narcotic lull on "Show Me Love" - is pure feeling. There's a heavy goth influence on things here, even as sparkling and lush as the production gets, and the drone of Cocteau Twins and the haunting new wave of Siouxsie and the Banshees, not to mention the hazy landscapes of My Bloody Valentine, are much in evidence throughout. Atmosphere is the priority here, yet it's a testament to Curtis' work and Deheza's renewed fire that the songs on Ghostory stand well enough on their own. "The Night" might be the best track the duo have penned to date, concise by their own standards yet voluminous in its sound, with a hook that is as compelling as any in the band's catalog. "Lafaye," meanwhile, is haunting and vaguely foreboding; its melody calls to mind Florence's "What The Water Gave Me," but its chorus and the unexpected tonal shift are, simply put, enchanting.

It's hard to explain what kind of emotions these songs engender, and I can imagine it will be different for everyone - that's the beauty of this kind of dreamy canvas, where the words are much less important than the spirit of the vocals and the nebulous music. There's the general ghost story conceit, of course, but that's as much a smokescreen as it is a real narrative. At times I hear Alejandra talking to her twin, and there's loss and regret, while at others, most noticeably the triumphant closer "When You Sing," there is a simple catharsis, the culmination of a relentless drum pattern and a blizzard of instruments, not the least of which is Deheza's vocals spinning wondrously out into a psychedelic haze. It reminds me a bit of M83's latest, where lyrics were second to the vital, intense feelings the music offered up. It's also incredibly hard to pin down without resorting to an embarrassing array of adjectives and metaphors. Dream pop, goth, shoegaze - call it what you want, but what School of Seven Bells have ended up with is a genuinely gorgeous record by any standard.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in


Tracked by 3 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 28, 2012 6:38:11 AM PST
Kalgari says:
I'm confused to see "exquisite", "organic, spontaneous" and "genuinely gorgeous" juxtaposed with a score of 4 out of 5?

I can not imagine how you would describe an album you think is worthy of 5 out of 5. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 28, 2012 8:58:21 AM PST
More like a 4.5/5 but I can't do half stars :(

Posted on Feb 28, 2012 10:15:01 AM PST
M. Mueller says:
I think the new record is great, but I agree with what you touch upon in your first paragraph: specifically the departure of Claudia. When I first heard this group, they were playing a live session on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic and I was immediately hooked. Hearing this band live today is a letdown. I caught the end of their opening act for the White Lies in NYC and was not impressed. For me, those transfixing harmonies were the foundation of their sound. You still get it on their record (I'm assuming that Alehandra is creating all of it herself), but you never will again in person. Too bad.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 28, 2012 11:13:27 AM PST
rob says:
agreed, i was very fortunate to see one of their last 'full' live shows at the independent in SF. i'm glad the remaining duo stayed together rather than breaking up - this is great music.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 29, 2012 8:50:48 AM PST
Yeah, they can pretty much make it sound the same in the studio with multi-tracking and layers, but I imagine it won't sound as good live. That's a shame

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012 8:42:41 AM PST
I wish I knew the whole story about why Claudia left. It seemed so sudden (middle of tour).

Posted on Mar 10, 2012 5:46:34 PM PST
I saw SVIIB twice on their last tour - before and after Claudia left. The sound of the second show had a huge hole where her voice used to be. I was quite surprised that the band did not fill that with either recorded backing tracks or a hired backup singer. They are due here in Seattle in April and I'm hesitant about going to see them live as the harmonies was one of the qualities that drew me to their sound.

Posted on May 3, 2012 5:12:37 PM PDT
Michael says:
Talking to her twin? Melding the droning of My Bloody Valentine with M83? One of the reasons I don't care for MBV is the droning. I guess that's why I don't usually read lengthy reviews. Too much opinionated fluff.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 24, 2012 6:11:56 AM PDT
Mark Eremite says:
Welcome to Twitter culture, where "long" = "stupid."

Personally, I'm always amused when someone boasts that they don't read "lengthy" stuff, or when they mockingly type "TL;DR." It's like you're proudly announcing to the world that you're lazy and willfully ignorant.

Excellent review, Rudolph. Beautifully written and, as far as I can tell, totally fluff-less.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012 1:26:45 PM PDT
Thanks Mark!
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details



Location: Los Angeles

Top Reviewer Ranking: 157,915