There’s something of a revivial happening at the moment. The word shoegaze no longer feels ostracised these days. This month sees Rob Da Bank contribute a shoegaze compilation to the Sci-Fi-Lo-Fi series. Taking in the likes of Chapterhouse, Slowdive, Jesus and Mary Chain, it brings us right up to current bands marked by a similar sound dubbed as “nu-gaze” like Maps, M83 and Ulrich Schnauss. What stops the retrograde of ideas in this renaissance is the added focus on electronics which is where Brooklyn’s School of Seven Bells enter from stage-left in Whelan’s on a surprisingly packed Monday night. Word on this trio has clearly spread fast.
The two twins Alejandra and Claudia flank the guitarist at the heart of the noise, former Secret Machines member Benjamin Curtis. Curtis’ former band have just released a lacklustre and unimaginative third album so he appears to make the right choice with SVIIB. The angelic looking Claudia and Alejandra take their places on synth and guitar respectively looking a little nervous after a five minute tuneup. What follows is an hour of headswhirling harmonies, ultra-sheened guitar and recorded beats.
The band’s debut Alpinisms occasionally suffers from repetition but live, just the joy of listening to the twins’ beautiful harmonious voices is enought to wash away any feelings of bloatedness. They make a gliding vocal combo while Curtis batters at his guitar like the band are trading in post-rock histrionics. In a way, they are, as they match that genre’s penchant for voluptuous sounds with (inevitable comparison alert) Cocteau Twins-esque timbres.
The setlist is elevated by some genuinely great songs from Alpinisms – ‘Connjur’, ‘Half Asleep’, ‘Chain’, ‘Prince of Peace’, ‘IamUndernodisguise’ and in truth there are no bad songs but one song drags the sheen into a Joy Division-esque dirge. The stage is missing some kineticism thanks to the lack of a drummer. Alejandra (above) takes lead vocal on all songs, her bulbous eyes scanning the room throughout, looking a bit uneasy. The only real crowd communication comes from the Alejandra explaining they “partied in Swords Village last night”. They finish with the elongated ending of ‘Sempiternal-Amaranth’, a bleep-assisted jam which is infinitely better live than on the album. Slightly uncharasmatic performers they may be but if this is 2009’s version of shoegaze then the genre’s frontrunners are no longer sulking on their trainers but soaring in digital dreamspaces.
Elsewhere: Sweet Oblivion interviews the band