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It seemed that the otherworldly brilliance of School of Seven Bells' debut album, Alpinisms, set a standard they would find difficult to surpass. Energised with stuttering off beats and tribal rhythms, it bore an intelligence and control beyond typical debut expectations and still managed to consummate it all with a shimmering detached grace.
It was an album almost four years in the making, but considering the trio's - Secret Machines' Benjamin Curtis with On!Air!Library!'s Alejandra and Claudia Deheza - disparate, almost haphazard collaborations, the end result, arguably, should never have been as ornate and intriguing as it turned out to be.
With the band now considerably more settled, the release of Disconnect from Desire is confirmation that SVIIB's meticulous balance between the spiritual and choral has reached a confident, polished plateau.
There's still the mesmerism of Alejandra's voice, interlaced with heavy, honeyed harmonies and bold, complex chord structures. At times, though, her waif-like wail can't mask the needless propensity for throwaway 80s synths on tracks like the meaningless Camarila.
Coupled with a noticeably approachable mainstream sheen, and the occasional expansive thundering of Curtis's Secret Machines days (minus the candy kitsch vocals, of course), Disconnect... heaves with all the mysticism of its predecessor but finds a heightened reliance on clean transitions between beguiling, dreamy pop and flowing shoegaze.
From its ethereal opener to the dirty electro skirmishing of The Wait, it's also an album confident in its contrasts as tracks flawlessly ease and shift between clinical pop purity and desolate, sighing dynamics. Deheza continually lends the album a wide-eyed finesse, her lavish voice gloriously curling around opaque melodies on the forlorn, M83-esque ILU and the sweet vocal play of Windstorm.
Capable of evoking the unearthly divinity of previous tour mates Blonde Redhead, and summoning all-consuming soundscapes to add some mettle to said splendour, this offers further evidence that SVIIB's ability to create lucid, breathless music of inexorable beauty was glorious the first time round. But here they go further. Now it seems innate.
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