School of Seven Bells’ full-length debut, Alpinisms, is best introduced with a little etymology: Mercurial French author Rene Daumal defined “alpinism” as “the art of climbing mountains.” Art, of course, means many things: the perfection of craft, the transcendence of spirit, the physical world and the truth found beyond it. Alpinists, then, are both athletes and mystics. They practice "pure" climbing, hands gripping the cragged incline sans rope or guide, forcing their bodies ever-upward in the name of earthly enlightenment. “Alpinisms,” says Daumal enthusiast and guitarist Alejandra Deheza, “are mountain-climbing songs.”
Alpinisms is an electronically enhanced pop record of dizzying highs and claustrophobic lows, whose painstaking conception shows in its detail-laden crevices. On the album’s best tracks – the polyrhythmic dream-pop of “Face to Face in High Places,” the nervous shimmer of “My Cabal,” the menacing lilt of “Iamundernodisguise” – Benjamin Curtis constructs layers of shoegazing, moire-patterned guitars, while sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza intertwine their near-identical voices like the fingers of praying hands. Throughout, the whole heavenly affair is tethered to the ground with a glitchy, tribal thwomp.
In Alpinisms, technology collides with cryptic religious imagery and airtight songcraft; knowledge begets action; and School of Seven Bells master an alien climate with effortless artistry.
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