Friday, May 4th, 2012
School Of Seven Bells and Exitmusic at The Hoxton in Toronto
Frank YangWhen I think back to School Of Seven Bells’ last headlining show in Toronto in September 2010 circa Disconnect From Desire, two things leap immediately to mind. One, that it was less than a month before Claudia Deheza announced her departure from the band and two, that it was shockingly poorly attended – as in you could count the dozens of people there on one hand from where I stood. That these come to mind before the fact that it was a great show – the best I’d seen from them at and not uncoincidentally the first time I saw them with a live drummer – was unfortunate.
Wednesday night wasn’t their first time back since then – they opened up for Interpol at The Sound Academy in February of 2011 – but it was their first in support of Ghostory, their third album and first as a duo, and first in front of their own local fanbase, however many that would turn out to be. To my ears they’d recovered quite well from losing a third of the band as far as writing and recording went, but was certainly curious to see how their live show adapted. Questions about whether or not they had fans in the 416 were thankfully answered early on as The Hoxton, while not nearly sold out, was respectably full. We’ll call that last show an exception, then.
Support on this tour came from fellow New Yorkers Exitmusic, a new act – their debut EP From Silence came out last year and their first full-length Passage is due May 22 – but one whose face may be familiar to viewers of Boardwalk Empire. Not that this tidbit offered any insight into what sort of music they might make; indeed, you don’t get much further from the sounds of the prohibition era than the dark and goth-y dreamscapes that they offered. They moved at a steady, determined pace that preferred to render dynamics on the scale of their set than in each individual song. Aleksa Palladino’s voice has a great range, but rather than show it off she tended to restrict it to what was necessary for the song – a commendable approach that you don’t hear as much as you should. Utilizing plenty of electronics but with few synthetic affectations, they succeeded at creating a distinct mood but were light on melody and the songs were ultimately only intermittently memorable.
I probably make too much out of the loss of Claudia Deheza from School Of Seven Bells. Certainly it disrupted my sense of symmetry and novelty, but as Ghostory proved it didn’t adversely affect them creatively, this show proved it wasn’t even a speed bump in their ever-improving live show. Recall that when they first started performing, it was as near to a literal translation of a studio project to stage as you could get with the Deheza sisters on guitar and keys flanking Ben Curtis on guitar, all playing over dense backing tracks – it sounded note-perfect, but felt overly mechanical. Now with their sound having evolved towards a full-on dance-rock hybrid, having a live drummer and keyboardist/backing vocalist augmenting Allie Deheza and Curtis may have made them a more conventional band, but also a much better one.
With Deheza as the focal point – okay, the glowing Ghostory glyphs on either side of the stage were also eye-catching – they worked a set that had good weight and flow and stretched equally across their discography, sounding much more organic than you might have expected but still sleek and gleaming where it counted. Allie Alvarado didn’t try to replace all of Claudia’s departed harmonies, but when called on to double Deheza as on “Iamundernodisguise”, she acquitted herself alright – for the most part though, they were able to get the listener to gently accept that that facet of the band was no more but it was going to be alright. It was impressive just how many great songs they’ve produced in just three albums and half a decade, but it was the set-closing selections from Alpinisms that still got me the most – “Half Asleep”, which opened the encore, is still pure and glorious pop. And this time, there were people there to see it.
Photos: School Of Seven Bells, Exitmusic @ The Hoxton – May 2, 2012
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Lafaye”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “The Night”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Windstorm”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Babelonia”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Connjur”
MP3: Exitmusic – “The Sea”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Reappear”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Lafaye”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Windstorm”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “My Cabal”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Half Asleep”
Video: Exitmusic – “Passage”
Video: Exitmusic – “The Hours”
Before opening up for Bear In Heaven at The Garrison later that night, Blouse will stop in at Sonic Boom’s Kensington location this Saturday – May 5 – for a little record-shopping and in-store performing at 5PM. There’s features on the Portland dream-pop outfit at The Boston Phoenix and SSG Music.
Exclaim reports that How To Dress Well – the pseudonym of Brooklyn’s Tom Krell – will bring his take on R&B sounds backed by a full band to The Drake Underground on June 7 as part of a Summer tour, presumably in support of a new record.
After putting on a helluva show at The Horseshoe in November, Chicago soul outfit JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound will return to that same room for a show on July 13, tickets $9. For a taste of what to expect, check out their Epitonic Saki Session and read and interview at Go Pride Chicago. They also just released a new video from Want More.
Reunited San Diego hardcore legends Hot Snakes are coming to town for a show at The Horseshoe on September 21, tickets $20 in advance.
Design Sponge gets a tour of Sharon Van Etten’s apartment. Can’t say I’m not disappointed that she’s got one of those terribly Crossley turntables… There’s also interviews at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Nashville Scene. Van Etten plays The Phoenix on July 31.