School of Seven Bells take their magic seriously. Symbols, myths, mantras-in the hands of sisters/vocalists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza and guitarist/producer Benjamin Curtis (formerly of On!Air!Library! and Secret Machines, respectively), these mystical practices become achingly human, methods of making sense of an emotionally complex world. School of Seven Bells' sophomore album Disconnect from Desire-the follow-up to the Brooklyn trio's breakthrough debut Alpinisms-takes its title from one of Brian Eno's oblique stratagems; its' cryptic album image is a "sigil," a mystical figure containing the energy and intent of the album entire. The real magic of Disconnect from Desire, though, lives in its music: ten tracks of soaring, visionary dream-pop from a band working at the height of its powers.
On Disconnect from Desire, School of Seven Bells focus the layered electronic textures and dense lyricism of Alpinisms to a razor's point, distilling the music to its essence as guitars ring, beats crunch, and the Deheza sisters' voices intertwine with new, right-in-your-ears clarity. "I want you to know that I loved you," Alejandra Deheza intones on "I L U", lending emotional directness to the track's maelstrom of synthesized atmosphere and gently curving samples; "Babelonia" lays the protagonist's wounded psyche atop a deep, baggy beat and overlapping, Stereolab-esque vocal tricks; "Dust Devil" matches a staccato, New Order-style bassline to the Dehezas' distended melodies as the trio dips its toes into dance music and comes up glowing; and lead single "Windstorm" deftly evokes Eurythmics' pointillist art-pop, slashed through with shoegaze guitars and sweetly menacing falsetto. More than anything, Disconnect from Desire sounds huge, as each instrument and electronic blip complements its partners and contributes to an ever-expanding whole.
Disconnect from Desire is a complete work-an old-fashioned album from forward-thinking minds, as thematically airtight as it is mind-bendingly gorgeous. In the end, the "sigil" on the cover of Disconnect from Desire is the perfect analog to the music: strange yet familiar, exquisitely rendered, breathtaking to behold.