Photo: Clarke Tolton and Justin Hollar

School of Seven Bells: SVIIB

SVIIB is the light show to the perfect dream, one where acknowledgements of life's strife become that which makes celebration possible.
School of Seven Bells

The orb in the cover of SVIIB can contain many things, but, of all, it’s highly likely to encase a perfectly piercing bright light. This is the light that would guide the friendship of founding members Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis. Within its mythical properties is an undefined part of human nature that pushes bonds along the dark. The news of Curtis being diagnosed with a rare form of T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphona brought upon sadness, but there was still the intention to complete the project that would be SVIIB. 2012 saw the birth of the record; 2013 saw the death of Curtis; and 2014 brought Deheza to work with multi-instrumentalist and producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen to finish what was nearly completed.

Though Deheza had to face her grief, she ultimately found the strength to complete SVIIB. The lyrics that had been worked on with Curtis would resonate more as Meldal-Johnson and Deheza worked through adding the other founder’s soul into the album, putting what Curtis would’ve wanted. It wasn’t only his being that found its way in. Like scientists surprised by their results, it’s possible that the two would find magic in what would be Curtis’ instrumental sections. School of Seven Bells took on this magic, while noting how apt each fire motif would be. This isn’t the flame that surrounds itself on a mixtape, but a different animal entirely. And this animal is simple, beautiful, wants to caress, and wants to bring its party hymns to announce School of Seven Bells’ final curtain call.

Sadness and grieving did not make touches on SVIIB broken — these elements give new meaning to celebration. “Ablaze” starts its instrumental like a hum, only to have its rock elements rise to create a dreamy party. The fire is, of course, there, but there’s no carbon monoxide; instead, fresh air envelops the pop bubble the song pursues. New Order’s influence resonates within the dancehall grooves of “A Thousand Times More”, highlighting themes of faith through positive melodies. Faith is but one of the conceptual parts to the records pseudo-chronicle, its desire to portray relationships.

The love SVIIB heralds doesn’t want to let go, but is not obsessive. It wants to give space to both parties, allowing for the spectrum of feeling to be experienced. But when it caresses, the album glows as something that genuinely wants to keep love safe (“On My Heart”), while still acknowledging the power in individuals. Pull them apart of bring them together, Deheza and Curtis initiated something that recognizes the complexity of love. “Elias” feels like the love letter Deheza meant for Curtis. When the vocalist sings about one’s perspectives as a man and as a friend, the planets revolve around the other founder again. SVIIB becomes a gift not only for fans — and new listeners of the band — but an awe-inspiring musical reminder of love between two people and how it’s a fire that lights the way.

The symbolic nature of fire is what the magical instrumentation and production Curtis worked with had looked for. Deheza and Meldal-Johnson, throughout the nine tracks, pursue the record’s imagined structure while also looking at the bright tips of flame that would bounce from “Ablaze” to further songs. “Signals” demonstrates the fire as literal — the signal that would guide the way while bursts of rock guitar enter the picture. Through the song’s dirty alleyway electronics could have been expanded on, the pop that resonates is sufficient to cause listeners to move forward. In this pop that the flame’s light beckons, the band’s audience are brought into the subject of simplicity and how beautiful Deheza can make it.

Though some critics can find Deheza’s near-monotone singing to be off-putting and static, the way she’s able to string along her words like she holds her lover’s hand brings you to the breathtaking scenery she can drag you to. The scenery becomes the lone orb in the sky, the piece of light that would part the cloudy and emotional “Confusion,” producing “This Is Our Time”, the track that holds all the beauty of an abstract concept like friendship. The song glows brighter than “Ablaze” despite moving slower than it. The fire that the album chases reveals itself as something within the band. It’s hot, lovely, and, most of all, “indestructible”. With a moist electronic presence, the track creates images other bands might come with, not reaching the gravity and magic held by School of Seven Bells and their mustered indie and dream pop ecstasy.

SVIIB is the light show to the perfect dream, one where acknowledgements of life’s strife become that which makes celebration possible. In its tumultuous creation — its relationship with the dead, the hurting, and the living — the album finds new meaning by allowing friendship to transcend all limits through beautiful simplicity and a ubiquitous glow. School of Seven Bells can rest assured that this final project will resonate for years to come.

RATING 8 / 10