School Of Seven Bells - SVIIB

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2016-02-26

SVIIB was produced in extraordinary circumstances. Started by Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Deheza in 2012, it was interrupted in February 2013 when Curtis was diagnosed with lymphoma. Although he was often too sick to work, more recording was done in 2013 but he sadly died in December of that year. It wasn’t until 2015 that Deheza was able to start work on completing the album.

Given the circumstances of its creation, musically SVIIB is an uplifting album. Influenced by the poppier end of shoegaze (Loveless and Heaven Or Las Vegas) it also takes some of its atmosphere from Floating In The Night by Julee Cruise and there’s a big chunk of 80s synth-pop in there too. What Curtis and Deheza (with the help of M83’s producer, Justin Meldal-Johnsen) have created is a modern pop treat for the ears - there are warm bass sounds, sparkling synths and crunching guitars. It is a fully-rounded sound.

The lyrics too are fully-rounded. Deheza doesn’t flinch from any of the emotions she must have gone through over the course of the making of SVIIB. From break-up, through sickness and death, to grieving and beyond, we see and feel it all in the context of Curtis and Deheza’s friendship and love. Although all the songs were written before his death you can feel Deheza’s loss through the way she views him and their friendship. On Ablaze you feel the pain of their break-up (‘When it (love) died, I fell apart.’) on Open Your Eyes you feel the pain of one friend watching the other in pain. Elias addresses the start of their relationship and also the love and pride within it. The penultimate song – Confusion – deals with just that. The music is different on this track, there is a stillness to it and the synth sounds are both warm and cold. It was the only song written after Curtis’s diagnosis and, as something unforeseen threatens her friend and their friendship, Deheza sings ‘I understand nothing of these changes.’

It is telling that the album doesn’t end here but instead with This Is Our Time, which is almost an ‘80s prom song, and the line, ‘This is our time and our time is indestructible’. If this album is about friendship in the context of break-ups, sickness and death it – and the very fact of its completion - is also about how a friendship and a life can continue beyond that. 

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