The first item anyone will bring up about School of Seven Bells’ third record, Ghostory, is that it is the first since the late 2010 departure of Claudia Deheza, which left the group as just guitarist Benjamin Curtis and Claudia’s twin sister/fellow singer Alejandra. Yet, just as sophomore release Disconnect From Desire (QRO review) opener “Windstorm” picked up where debut full-length Alpinisms (QRO review) left off, so does Ghostory – even as it also delves into today’s chillwave style.
Ghostory is strongest when SVIIB stick to their mix of airy and pressing, ‘tronica and guitars, which worked so well for them before, such as on lead-off “The Night” or closer “When You Sing”. It’s a little more straightforward than before, as there is only one singer this time, but they’ve eschewed any major sonic shift to accompany the personnel one (it’s always more remarkable when the band member who left is related to one who stayed – and even more so if they’re twins…). That does mean that Ghostory is less sonically impressive than prior releases, if only because SVIIB have established their sound and are on the verge of repeating it.
It’s also a little less noteworthy because keyboards are all the rage these days – the term ‘chillwave’ (probably/hopefully) hadn’t even been invented when SVIIB started. In the middle of Ghostory, the band does slow down and reduce their sonics for a spookier feel, but at first it feels just run-of-the-mill on back-to-back “Low Times” and “Reappear”. Yet with the following back-to-back “Show Me Love”, SVIIB raise their chillwave bar, doing portending right. And then comes “Scavenger”, perhaps Ghostory‘s best piece, which is mostly a return to the group’s earlier guitar-tronic mix, but also includes some chilling haunt (in the right kind of eighties way).
Time could have passed School of Seven Bells by before they knew what hit them – witness the success of The xx, who went from opening for SVIIB one year in New York (QRO photos) to out-shining them a few months later when still opening for them at CMJ (QRO recap) to headlining Central Park SummerStage a year later (QRO review). And then SVIIB lose one-third of themselves, as well as their key visual signature of dueting twin songstresses. However, Ghostory not only reestablishes that the band is still here, but builds them on a path to their second life.
MP3 Stream: “Scavenger“