Live: School Of Seven Bells Keep Their Cool At The Mercury Lounge


School of Seven Bells
Mercury Lounge
Tuesday, February 28

Better than: Melting.

School of Seven Bells played an early show at the Mercury Lounge Tuesday night, in celebration of the release of their new record Ghostory (Vagrant). The members of the band shared a mood of of pride and awe. “We’re so happy to be here,” said guitarist Benjamin Curtis, in semi-exhausted thanks. “If I were more articulate I could tell you why.”

Curtis is perhaps lacking in the lucidity department, but the his band’s music takes care of that for him. He clung to his guitar all night, electronic textures being faxed in from elsewhere. He strummed in an insistent, shoegazey way—guitar as weather, while the vocals of Alejandra Deheza seemed floated in from another music. They don’t quite fit in with or react to the New Order-ish escalations; they’re all solid notes, at odds with the sometimes vaporous sounds surrounding them. But it’s from this uneven transaction that the music pulls its emotional heft.

Last night, the band added drums to its sound, resituating the music’s center to a more active, less purely textural place. What resulted was a restlessly spiraling sound, and seeing its coherent dreaminess produced by people—four visibly grateful, unassuming people, who thanked the crowd often and resolutely—was astounding.

I’m used to feeling hot in the Mercury Lounge, where the stage lights practically absorb band and audience as one. Last night, though ostensibly sold out, substantial eyelets of space through which one could glide, and perhaps dance, opened up. Some people danced. Others stood frozen, looking sort of lost. I feel like there’s a lot of resentment, from critics and artists themselves, aimed at people who would rather experience music in a kind of calm paralysis, but here both dancing and stillness were legitimate, appropriate reactions. School of Seven Bells offer flash and meditation, dynamics and opportunities for contemplation.

Critical bias: Music that is danceable and expertly formed behind a gorgeous voice—this is pretty much the only music I would listen to, if restrained.

Random notebook dump: I am pretty used to amateur cellphone video from concerts, but someone filmed a song with their iPad.