Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Gig Review: School of Seven Bells, Manchester Ruby Lounge, 19th of July 2010

Sorry for the missed post earlier in the week - things have caught up with me.
Right, now. Where was I? Oh yes, the School of Seven Bells gig I went to on Monday.

I now feel completely vindicated in my mini architectural reviews that I do of venues I visit. The Ruby Lounge is really a poorly-designed gig venue, with a massive lounge and bar space, but a tiny, cramped stage shoved in an overheated corner, with the view obscured by pillars. This isn't helped by the lowness of the ceiling and the lowness of the stage itself. I didn't actually see much of this performance at all.

The main support act, Active Child, pulled out at the last minute, which was disappointing. Another support was playing when I arrived. She was a solo female singer with an acoustic guitar, a reverb pedal and quite a lovely, powerful voice, but I spent most of her set locating my friend and talking (not near the stage, I might add), which was really rather rude of me. I don't know who she was, although she might have been part of a band called The Steels. She was quite good.

School of Seven Bells take the stage after a suitable delay. They are augmented tonight by a live drummer. For most of the set, I can only see a bit of Claudia Deheza, with the odd glimpse of Benjamin Curtis. Claudia struggles with her monitors and other issues to begin with, and is not quite comfortable during the first number. Things loosen up with the first big song, Windstorm, which makes a welcome, but surprisingly early, appearance.

Understandably, SviiB live is a different experience from SviiB on record, and this is most evident during the newer numbers. On record, these are heavy on the electronics with clean, bright vocals, but live, there is a pleasing fuzzy texture and rawness to them. Both Claudia and Alejandra have strong live voices, and their harmonising chimes well with the washes of guitar and synth noise.

At first, their demeanour is shy, with little eye contact or communication, but they open up considerably after declaring that Manchester is one of their favourite musical cities. Stand-out tracks from the latter part of the set are the new songs Camarilla and Joviann, which combine strong vocal hooks with hazy guitars. The latter's Jesus&Mary Chain-esque drumbeats are especially good and hypnotic.

The set contains songs from both albums, but there are some surprising omissions: Connjur and Prince of Peace do not get an airing. However, the set proper ends with a pretty, note-perfect My Cabal, which leaves the crowd wanting more. The Deheza sisters and Benjamin Curtis oblige with an extra number, a new song I cannot remember the title of.

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