School Of Seven Bells - The Ruby Lounge, Manchester - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

School Of Seven Bells - The Ruby Lounge, Manchester

by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date:

It's a fair Monday night and a really early start for last-minute substitution support band, The Steals, who replaced the food-poisoning stricken Active Child at the eleventh hour. So early that arriving at the reasonable time of 8.15 grants us only one song and it's a shame as The Steals plough a nice and delicate furrow of just twin guitars, which is rather reminiscent of Beach House. It would have good to catch a bit more of them.

School of Seven Bells (SVIIB) are on at the unfathomably early time of 9pm and have expanded their live performance to include a drummer. Opening with 'Half Asleep', SVIIB show that they have refined their live sound. It is less processed, with the loops that previously dominated and often overshadowed their live performance expelled into the background. This is a far more real sound and allows lead singer Alejanandra Deheza's vocal to take centre stage of the gorgeous noise they produce. It is a blissfully triumphant start, which is followed superbly by latest single 'Windstorm'.

After this point, though, the performance suffers from poor acoustics. Seeing bands at the Ruby Lounge on previous occasions has often required an immediate lie down in a darkened room to recover from your head being blown apart by the sheer loudness of it all, but SVIIB suffer from having the volume cranked down far too low. Songs such as 'Babelonia', 'Connjur' and 'Bye Bye Bye' come across to the audience as too thin, with the latter also struggling with bad bass reverb, and sadly the crowd respond by being largely nonplussed about it all.

There is also a nagging feeling that SVIIB's turn to the 80s on their new album is on full show here, with many songs, including those from Alpinisms, seeming to replicate Monsoon's classic 1982 single 'Ever So Lonely', albeit with the ghost of John McGeogh's guitar over the top of it. 'Camarilla' has the dubious effect of sounding like M83 channelling Jean Michel Jarre, perhaps a Bat For Lashes-by-the-sea, and 'Bye Bye Bye', replicates early Killing Joke soundtracking an imaginary holiday program.

Thankfully though things improve in the latter part of the gig. 'Joviann' and 'ILU' are probably the strongest tracks on the new album and both are given excellent airings here and, by the closing number and standout track 'My Cabal', the audience seems to have woken up and the band are happy with the show. There's even room for an encore and SVIIB, while still smiling, seem angrier, and finally the vocals are given justice. It is powerful end to a rather inconsistent gig.

I'm not convinced SVIIB's excellent new album has translated well into the live arena, hopefully with a more sympathetic sound engineer and a bit more passion, SVIIB can be a live force to be reckoned with in the future. They're just not there at the moment.

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