More rewarding even than hearing School of Seven Bells play through most of their new album, Ghostory, yesterday in Manhattan’s intimate Mercury Lounge was witnessing the pure, new-parent giddiness swell across Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis’ blushing faces all night.
“This is a really special day for us… If I was more eloquent I could tell you about it,” rooster-haired guitarist/producer Curtis bashfully informed the audience before the 15-track set’s encore. “We had a new record come out today. I’m really proud of the little fucker.”
Ghostory is School of Seven Bells’ third album, and has already made some cyber-waves through the leading spectral rock single “Lafaye” and various (mostly positive) reactions to the advance album stream. Given the band’s rep as a sort of indie/dance supergroup built of refugees from Secret Machines (Curtis) and On!Air!Library! (twin vocalists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza), and the late-night stoner cred that came courtesy of “Chain’s” inclusion on the free Adult Swim/Ghostly International mixtape, seeing an SVIIB album release for $15 on a Tuesday evening in a 250-person barroom was a no-brainer. By showtime Mercury Lounge was filled to capacity with 20-somethings, dread-locked neo-hippies and a few stray teen couples.
Behind lavender eyeliner, cropped raven-black bangs and a cache of silver necklaces, bracelets and earrings dangling off her petite person, Alejandra Deheza invoked an indie pop Cleopatra while she lilted through the breathless chorus of Alpinisms opener “Iamundernodisguise.” Undisguised by studio multi-tracking, Deheza doesn’t boast the ethereal presence she does on tape, but proved she is a talented vocalist nonetheless. After an instrumental introduction, Deheza’s pipes were put on blast for the entire 90-minute set, which leaned heavy on new Ghostory tracks, interspersed with occasional older favorites.
Curtis’ lush production makes Ghostory a more satisfying headphones-and-dancefloor album than an arena filler, but the band still mustered a sumptuous two-course meal with their limited ingredients. Since vocalist Claudia Deheza quit the band in 2010, SVIIB’s reformatted foursome now includes drummer Chris Colley, formerly of the New York indie quintet Soft, and backup singer/keyboardist Allie Alvarado, who has previously opened for SVIIB as the one-woman dance pop dynamo Painted Face. The new lineup works well; Colley and Alvarado helped load the band’s uber-produced tracks with a dense, room-filling rock sound. Bereft of mixing software bells and whistles (though there were a few MacBooks onstage in support), the harmony-rich Disconnect From Desire single “Windsong” was retuned into a pulsing guitar track that saw Deheza and Curtis trading riffs for the set’s patented moment of rockstar swag.
As with Sharon Van Etten’s visitation to the unusually intimate venue a few months ago, the attendant audience spent most of the show standing reverently quiet, occasionally swaying hips of bobbing chins, but mostly saving their energy for inter-track applause and hollers. Unfamiliar with most of the new tracks, SVIIB’s Mercury crowd wasn’t there so much for their own selfish pleasure as to validate a band who continues only to grow as their membership shrinks.
The Night
Bye Bye Bye
Love Play
White Wind
White Elephant Coat
Low Times
My Cabal
Half Asleep