Last night, School of Seven Bells played to a packed venue at Mercury Lounge, debuting tracks from their much buzzed-about sophomore effort Disconnect From Desire. Their set started out with “Windstorm,” opening track from the album, which to die-hard fans, may have sounded familiar, as Pitchfork offered an early listen on May 17. Despite initial muddiness as the sound guy sorted things out, the addition of Zachary Saginaw playing the world’s tiniest (and perhaps cutest) drum set of all time, added a lot to the trio’s live performance.

While SVIIBells’ sound—lots of sound layers coupled with mellow, ethereal vocals—can be transformative to listen to in the confines of your bedroom, it can be difficult to translate to a live setting. When playing live, the more intriguing subtleties that keep the band from treading into generic 80’s shoegaze are often drowned out, and temperamental, hard-to-hear electronics can cause stalls and
difficulties. (A few years ago, at SXSW, much of the audience unfamiliar with their sound looked bored for these very reasons).  Although the drums didn’t exactly eliminate any of these issues, they did help the band rock out a bit more, let loose, and have some fun.

schoolofsevalley2By the third song, “Jovania,” things began to sound less murky and lead singer Alley Dehaza’s vocals finally began to shine. (The overall sound, however, would have benefited from less vocal effects. Unlike most, these women have pitch-perfect harmonies and can actually sing; the effects only seem to mask their thoughtful lyrics and make things sound mushier live).

Things went from good to great when the band went into their New Order-influenced track “Dust Devil.” The audience’s heads were swaying, feet were moving, and guitarist Benjamin Curtis looked ecstatic. Shortly after, Alley set her guitar down and did a little 80′s dance.

Undoubtedly part of School of Seven Bells’ attraction are the two lovely and mysterious twin sisters, Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. But just because they look identical doesn’t mean they are – the two have very different stage presences.

Claudia, who was handling synth and a laptop (which seemed to be acting a little temperamental), gave off more reserved vibes and only broke a smile when Benjamin reassured her of something mid-way through the set. Lead singer/guitarist Alley appeared more outgoing: offering wide smiles between quick breaks and bending down on one knee to showboat a little with her guitar. Anchoring the two and gelling well with the drummer was guitarist Benjamin. Busy with his effects pedals, Benjamin (who, like the twins donned a tattoo of the sigil on their album cover) looked like he was having a lot of fun discovering the band’s new live sound. And overall, the audience liked it too – after loud, appreciative applause, the band came back for an encore.–Jennifer Bassett/photos by Jennifer Bassett

Disconnect for Desire debuts June 13, 2010.