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For quite some time, the School of Seven Bells’ debut album Alpinisms was one of those best kept secret records. On one hand you wanted to tell anyone who would listen about your discovery so that you could revel in smugness when your friends had to admit what a gem of an album it was, but on the other you also wanted to keep it all to yourself and not share with anyone.

Twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheva along with musician, producer and general wunderkind Benjamin Curtis finally emerged from a lengthy studio incubation earlier this year. The first track to find its way to the blogosphere was Babelonia, which did not suggest there was to be a great deviation from the shoegaze meets electronica of the debut album.

It’s actually quite hard to succinctly summarise why Disconnect from Desire fails to match the quality of its predecessor on any level. This is certainly a more commercial, accessible album and in many ways it ought to work.

The girls’ vocals are less layered and closer to the fore, such as on the album opener Windstorm. The problem is the lack of quality melodies or hummable tunes; there is certainly nothing here to match Iamundernodisguise.

There are forays into electronic dance territory here – Dust Devil would have been at home on the last Filthy Dukes album and Heart is Strange is Bat for Lashes singing La Roux.

The band have also diluted some of the Eastern influences and rhythms which made Alpinisms so magical and mysterious, and have lost some of the richness in doing so – at times coming off like a half-arsed Howling Bells.

The album peaks early on and by the time we reach track 9: Bye Bye Bye, you do indeed feel ready to bid adieu – if only to revisit Alpinisms to remind yourself of what could have been. Getting through the full six self-indulgent minutes of album closer The Wait is a challenge I failed to meet.

In summary this is an album which seems to lack from both direction and identity, unsure of whether to consolidate and stick with what worked before or to be brave and experiment and develop into new ground. The end result is an album which goes nowhere and sadly tells the all too familiar tale of a band who may have peaked already.

Words: Lee Bennett

Listen: SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS – Disconnect from Desire

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