FULL TIME HOBBY
While waiting for Benjamin Curtis (formerly of The Secret Machines and currently the man behind the curtains of School of Seven Bells) to appear onstage flanking Michael Rother (read Neu!) and his buddies Steve Shelley (drummer of Sonic Youth) and Aaron Mullan (Tall Firs) in the supergroup that will play (starting now) songs by (guess who wears the pants around here. Yes. Very good) Neu!, we got wind of the appearance of the new album by this New York trio. The twin sisters Ally and Claudia Deheza (On!Air!Library!) and Curtis, who met opening for Interpol, left what they were doing at the time and got down to work on giving birth to “Alpinisms” (2008), a very well-done debut where they started to mix dream pop with shoegaze features and space panoramas. On this record, “Disconnect from Desire”, we don’t find any wild evolutions of their previous arguments, but there is a refinement of their style, and a focus on certain times and sounds that were missing from their first album.
Throughout the listening, we find ourselves in a monologue of choruses and lengthened notes with a silky (and at times narcotic) backdrop that goes hand in hand with dance rhythms and glimmers of progressive rock (perhaps reminiscences of krautrock, especially now that Rother and Curtis are winking at each other?). It’s unbelievable, but the songs turn out to be not only pleasant, but also logical within a logic that great engineering and construction make possible. (Don’t they say that they have built the most leaning tower in the world just opposite the Leaning Tower of Pisa, for example?) Yes, if things are done well, everything is possible and flows naturally. The example of what we were just saying are “Windstorm” , “Dust Devil” (with the ambiental sound of the engines of a spaceship that gives way to powerful, dense rhythmic beats and pleasant voices lost in the ozone) and the deep dance of “Camarilla”, which is once again a rough but a highly effective production, and without detracting from its merit, they use sounds economically and very well, creating a very identifiable style.
The firm, beautiful voices of the Deheza sisters may sound like siren songs to us (irresistible with the 80s Vangelis-style synthesiser of “Heart Is Strange”, the preference for soft, pleasant-to-the-touch melodies will be heard in “ILU” (where they sound like some very mellow Pet Shop Boys), and we’ll see a half-time intimacy in the pleasant “Dial”. But let’s not lose track of where we were headed: their sound is thicker than the broth in a stew (“Babelonia” sounds correctly like the Cocteau Twins). There are neither echoes nor reverbs, but there is a thickness that stretches across many decibels that is a whole homogenous mattress without important jumps (leaving aside the box of rhythms, powerful in various songs, the only stylistic interruption would be thirty seconds of a keyboard solo–a bit strange, seeing that the rest is all voices, lyrics, and howling songs (made up of four simple notes in “Joviann”).
Legend has it that there is a school somewhere between the Andes and the outskirts of Bogotá, where thieves, with a sign marked “L” (the word for thief in Spanish is “ladrón”) hanging on their back, learn professional techniques for robbing tourists. The final exam consists of making holes in the pockets of a human doll that has seven little bells hidden inside it. A little bell is a pass. A big bell is a fail. This is where the name of this trio of artists comes from. But it isn’t a metaphor. Like a siren song, the drowsy hymn “The Wait”, among other songs on the notable “Disconnect from Desire”, can leave us in our underwear like Ronald Biggs. The record updates certain details of New Order, The Smiths, the new romantics, and the dreaming of the 4AD label – all comparisons which aren’t too big for this band. So listen carefully.