I came to Thursday's show with a bit of hesitation.
I had heard good things about School of Seven Bells but didn't quite know what to expect. I decided to check out the band in the first place after I saw the event was promoted by aestheticized presents and hosted at Crowbar, both avenues through which I've heard great music lately. I liked the band's dark, broody ambience on their MySpace page and was hoping they were as good live as on the Web.
The band fulfilled my expectations, even if they were without one of their principal members. Two nights before the show, the group announced on their Facebook page that Claudia Deheza, singer and keyboardist, left the band indefinitely for "personal reasons." The music played was as dark and broody as I anticipated, and the dreaminess of it brought to mind a gloomier Azure Ray.
Claudia's twin sister Alejandra held her own, and sang with a Björk-like otherworldliness. Her high voice and mysteriousness resulting in definite stage presence. Yet, the friends I went with were more impressed with the instrumentation than the vocals. They filled in gaps in my musical knowledge, pointing out the resemblance to the distortion-heavy shoegaze act My Bloody Valentine.
My favorite track of the night was "Windstorm," a track from 2010's Disconnect from Desire that combined both shoegaze-y instrumentation and Deheza's beautiful vocals. "Half Asleep," was another great I heard — the track combined the harmony of the sirens of Azure Ray with the dreaminess of Mazzy Star.
The former four-piece, showed they could play three strong, and made for a good night of music. I wrote down the band's setlist, and the titles follow after a review of opener Active Child.
Active Child took me by surprise. It's not too often you see a harp on stage at an indie rock show; hell, at any show. But, the L.A-based twosome made great use of the unexpected instrument. As crazy as it sounds, the harp wasn't even the most impressive instrument of the night — that belonged to Pat Grossi, whose operatic tenor hit notes I had never heard before.
Grossi's voice sounded like a combination of Morrissey, Robert Smith and Ian Curtis, and brought sonic memories of all three of those depressed geniuses. A bit of research showed Grossi had sung in the Philadelphia Boy's Choir, and his impressive falsetto showed off this pedigree. His deep, dark voice rang out through Crowbar's main stage and was amazing for its clarity. The two-piece chillwave act went into harmony on one of the night's numbers, and the effect was dazzling. I have never seen classical training applied to indie music, but it worked well for Active Child.
This is what School of Seven Bells' setlist said (Feel free to add more in the comments section)
Heart Is Stronger
Bye Bye Bye
I L U