When most artists leave their already-successful bands to do something new, it’s usually because they desire more of the spotlight. Not so with former Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis: His new band, School of Seven Bells, is a far more meditative and electronic affair dominated by former On!Air!Library! entrancers Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, who sing in mesmerizing siren-song unison, even if they sound like a grade-A hookah-bar act at times. Alpinisms takes two paths: Tracks like “My Cabal” and “Half Asleep” create a subtle floating effect, ethereal and sweet-sounding, vacillating freely from dreamy shoegaze pop to a more tribal, dance-oriented thing; “Iamundernodisguise” and “Wired for Light” both riff on heavy drumbeats and an underlying layer of hazy, stuttering feedback.
The Secret Machines, meanwhile, are content with what they’ve got: arena-sized rock stompers for those too elitist to enjoy Kings of Leon or the Foo Fighters. But they’ve now lost both a founding member and major-label backing; that frustration, or uncertainty at least, shakes them up agreeably on their third full-length. Although frontman Brandon Curtis mostly sticks to “What’s wrong with my relationship?” lyrical themes, there’s a distinct yearning to his tone, with notes of longing and optimism that were absent on 2006’s Ten Silver Drops. “Have I Run Out” channels the howls and ambition of late-’60s Pink Floyd, while opener “Atomic Heels” does the power-chord anthem thing, convincingly. The Secret Machines takes the band back where they started, focusing on blistering psych-rock that’s nonetheless accessible and doesn’t sound like it’s overcompensating for something, even if there’s plenty to compensate for.
School of Seven Bells play Webster Hall with M83 on November 14; the Secret Machines play the Music Hall of Williamsburg November 18