When they are firing on all cylinders, on top of their game, at the top of their peak, School of Seven Bells sound like a fantastic Hewlett-Packard commercial. And I don’t mean that in the pejorative (necessarily); it’s just that there’s something in School of Seven Bells’ sterile, monumental reading of dance and indie-pop that makes me think of laser printers. Thus, I have to imagine there is a legion of music supervisors out there thinking the same thing, salivating that School of Seven Bells’ OK sophomore album, Disconnect from Desire, features 10 tracks ready for spots in between episodes of So You Think You Can Dance.
On nearly every count, Disconnect from Desire achieves a higher level than School of Seven Bells’ 2008 debut album, Alpinisms. The principle difference being that these songs breathe, as in there’s a feeling that three people (and a computer) made this album as opposed to two extremely bored women and a computer making the last one. (Tell me: What was Benjamin Curtis’ acknowledgeable contribution to Alpinisms?) From the opening gusts of “Windstorm,” to the dance-floor-shaking synthetic drums of “Dust Devil” to the Duran Duran confidence of “Bye Bye Bye,” this is an improved School of Seven Bells. Curtis creates climbing music for the DeHeza sisters (Claudia and Alejandra) to do their hazy dual vocals on, and School of Seven Bells are finally starting to sound like a real band, not just a studio creation.
However, Disconnect from Desire’s greatest disconnect from greatness is the same one from Alpinisms: When you get down to it, School of Seven Bells really only have one song. It’s airy, synth-heavy and loud, and it moves like a glacier. That song can be great at times, but when it’s spread over six-minute versions 10 times an album, Disconnect from Desire becomes an endurance exercise. However, in its brighter moments (particularly the first third), the time spent in a rigid daze during Disconnect from Desire is almost worth it.