Despite the departure of Claudia Deheza from the band a month ago, the remaining School of Seven Bells members (now duo) played an impressive show at London’s Heaven last week.
Formed in 2006 and taking their name from the mythical pick pocketing academy of South America, there is certainly the theme of the dreamlike and ethereal surrounding this band’s work before one even takes a listen. This coupled with the underground London venue-come-club provided a location in which the swarming guitars and synths that define their sound could cocoon the crowd.
Woozy vocals from Alejandra Deheza coupled with Benjamin Curtis’ (formerly of Secret Machines) reeling guitar riffs, allowed the SviiB’s set to cascade in and out of songs with ease. Little crowd interaction was displayed or needed and the onstage musical interaction from the pairing of the remaining Deheza sister and Curtis was evident, allowing their shared vision to create a colourful soundscape which bloomed to life in a live setting.
With two albums now behind them and this year’s sophomore release Disconnect from Desire receiving praise from listeners, critics and peers alike it goes without saying that this string of UK tour dates has been highly anticipated. Like a lot of the musicians of the shoegaze, dreampop genre there is always a worry that the translation from record to stage will not be a smooth one and with the recent departure of Claudia this made it doubly as hard for the band. Yet Deheza and Curtis, along with live drummer Zachary Saginaw, proved their music looses little live, still managing to create a calming atmosphere in which the vast majority of the audience found themselves lost in the dreamscape of it all. With Deheza taking the full strain of the vocal efforts with seeming ease and Curtis sporadically interjecting with the synths which Claudia left vacant, drummer Saginaw was left to provide the beats in a more traditional fashion.
Of course the perfection of harmonies between the identical twin Dehezas’ could not be captured on stage due to the line-up changes but nonetheless most songs didn’t feel anymore sparse for their absence: “I L U” for example in which Alejandra’s voice was the driving force from the outset still stands strong. That said, the vocals felt remarkably quieter than on recorded versions, and while SviiB instrumentation may be the initial appeal it is their songwriting process that feels like the core of this band. With Deheza composing songs from the lyrics up, before fleshing them out sonically into a dreamy soundscape of effervescent beauty, at Heaven; while the melodies were captivating enough; the whispers of vocals didn’t allow lyrics like those from “Half Asleep” to allure as they are intended. “What begins as an unguarded/train of thoughts slowly can become/an addiction to the slumber/of disconnection and the resonance/of memory that no longer has a shape/but keeps you numb through/the hours till gone is another day”.
While a highly enjoyable gig you can’t help but wonder just how much more of a “wow” factor there would have been had the complete trio been present. Nonetheless a remarkable job despite the situation and one most would happily repeat.
Buy their latest album: Disconnect from Desire: Special Edition
All photos by Michael Farrant (All Rights Reserved)