Like many bands before them, School of Seven Bells were born as the result of a late-night revelation. Benjamin Curtis connected with sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza in 2004 while their bands—Secret Machines and OnLibrary!, respectively—were on tour. While watching PBS at 3am, Alejandra caught a show about the School of Seven Bells: a mythical South American pickpocket academy that may or may not have existed in the ‘80s. The idea of seven minds working as one appealed to her, as did the phrase’s cryptic musicality, and a creative spark ignited.
By the end of 2006, Curtis and the Deheza sisters had completely disappeared into School of Seven Bells. From the outset, it was clear that the trio’s music transcended the usual genre restrictions. Early recordings popped up on Sonic Cathedral, Table of Elements, and Suicide Squeeze, then Blonde Redhead tapped School of Seven Bells for a tour. Remixes came from Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and Prefuse 73, whose “Class of 73 Bells,” a re-imagining of SVIIB’s “Iamundernodisguise,” ended up on his 2007 album Preparations (Warp).
School of Seven Bells’ music is full of tensions—Curtis’ gentle guitars wrap around jagged beats; silky vocals hide behind grumpy, alien synthesizers—but the resulting songs are effortlessly cohesive, and insidiously catchy. Elements of dream-pop, Afrobeat, IDM, and 4AD’s gauzier moments provide a constantly shifting frame for the Dehezas’ lyrics, which they write as mysterious missives between the School’s imaginary seven members. On their Ghostly debut, Alpinisms, we get the impression that the three seasoned musicians have taken up full-time residence in a dizzying fantasy world; they move freely within the realm of pickpockets and dreamers, composing a soundtrack according to their own odd, beautiful logic.