School of Seven Bells Bring New Music to Mercury Lounge

June 11th, 2010

School of Seven Bells – Mercury Lounge – June 10, 2010

School of Seven Bells wore it on their skin. Each band member featured the cover art of their new record, Disconnect from Desire, tattooed prominently on their body. Guitarist Ben Curtis wore his over his heart. The intoxicating vocalists, Alley and Claudia Deheza, circumscribed the image on their arms, reflecting a different, nonetheless committed, series of personal choices. A physical commitment, a mixture of pain and soaring beauty, indelibly etched in black ink in definition and defense of a new tribalism. School of Seven Bells are exactly this: urban and profane, distant and enormous, ancient and horribly futuristic, a burn of contradictions and desire.

The Deheza sisters reflect a different, two-roads-diverged-in-a-yellow-wood question. Alley, quick, propulsive and bubbly, offered the only gratitude and annotations, saying early in the evening, “These are all songs off our new album…but we’ll have some old ones later.” Claudia, delicately behind a keyboard, remained still, providing the intense minor-key harmonies for which the band is so deservedly famous. She took her eyes off the keys only to send soul-splitting gazes to the back of the room. The capacity Mercury Lounge audience began to move during the third song, the stunning “Babelonia,” from the band’s forthcoming LP. Alley danced on the downbeats, arching her eyebrows to indicate the seriousness of her purpose. Claudia was, well, predictably hard to read.

Though the crowd knew few of the songs, the soaring wall-of-sound approach proved nonnegotiable. There were moments so loud, so condensed and so incredibly intricate that you wondered if this band is like Icarus, daring their wax wings not to melt on the surface of the sun. But perhaps this is darker. On set-closer “My Cabal,” the band drifted away to some foreign and familiar, a pleasant and unsettling challenge to join them by the end of the night, burned together in our ears and on our bodies. —Geoff Nelson