School of Seven Bells – The Hoxton, Toronto – May 2, 2012

By Anthony Marcusa

In their first Toronto show since losing a valuable member of their group, New York City’s School of Seven Bells proved enchanting and more than capable of assuming their altered sound and showcasing their evolution.

Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis took to the stage late in the evening at the relatively new Hoxton on lower Bathurst Street, a sleek and chic club fitting for an inspired band with an ethereal sound. Alejandra’s sister Claudia has departed the group, as the trio is down to two now, with the new pair’s first endeavor a new album and subsequent tour.

The twosome are certainly not lacking in confidence and energy, however, upping the tempo and volume in some of their pieces. Songs like The Night, with the eerie line ‘devour me,’ serving as one of the faster and more powerful lilts allows the band to break from of whatever constraints the terms ‘shoegaze,’ or ‘synth pop,’ may inflict.

Even with more melodic and introspective pieces, there is grandiosity to their live performance than transcends the recorded album. It is not addition by subtraction by any means, but more due to growth, ambition, and confidence. Every song completely filled the room, as the petite Deheza impressed with her prevailing sound, a voice that cannot be contained.

SVIIB was purposeful and serious, almost as if they viewed the evening, and likely the tour, as a chance to prove to themselves and others of what they are capable of as a pair. Backed by a drummer and keyboardist on stage, and with Deheza occasionally donning a guitar alongside Curtis, the show was not the mellow band they can at times come across as. Moreover, both Deheza and Curtis were quiet throughout, humbling thanking the audience but always focused.

The new album is decidedly more personal, the band admitted in interviews, and both Deheza and Curtis seem to give themselves completely to the new songs, especially the single, ‘Lafaye,’ one of the most soaring songs they’ve created to date. ‘Low Times,’ also performed from the new album, had a similar thoughtful nature and just as much captivation.

They reached back as well, playing pieces with which Claudia was once a part, dutifully honouring the past, especially with the performance of 'ILU’ from their previous release, Disconnect from Desire.

While The Hoxton was not sold out, it seemed everyone in attendance was completely taken by the band, offering one of the more determined ovations to beckon SVIIB back for an encore. Perhaps it was due to the smaller size of the venue, but the moment the band left the stage for their last piece, the audience roared to life, demanding their return.

And they did, performing a few more songs, highlighted by ‘Half Asleep,’ one of their best pieces from their debut album Alpinisms, and demonstrating once more their ability to hone the past while creating a new yet equally engaging and especially memorable sound; the distinctly refined sound of School of Seven Bells.