School of Seven Bells @ HiFi, Sydney (22/6/12)
Although School of Seven Bells have been down a member since Claudia Deheza’s exit in 2010, this year’s Ghostory didn’t fail to impress. The dreamy, multi-instrumental layers, as well as the telling of a poetic story throughout, combined to create a hypnotic third album and set an highly anticipated tone for their live set.
It is somewhat painful then, after such an interesting release, to admit that the gig was hit and miss. There were flashes of brilliance, but they were largely eclipsed by a feeling that something was lacking. Although the potential was there to use their albums as merely a rough guide to an unpredictable show, it felt more linear and obvious, without much edge.
‘Lafaye’, the fictional young girl who Ghostory revolves around, seemed almost present during the high points, where the band effectively created a haunting yet electric atmosphere with the use of multiple vocals and synths.
However, the live drums were hugely to thank for the most exciting moments where the band finally seemed engaged, at least with each other. Frankly, at times the drums were the only saving factor from the crowd becoming bored. Considering the venue was barely a third full, there was at least plenty of room for some erratic dancing. While not necessarily the band’s fault, the empty room made it hard not to feel like we were looking in on a rehearsal, instead of feeling part of an engaging performance.
The extended instrumental sections often seemed prolonged, instead of creative and exciting. While some of the heavier songs displayed their unique and compelling sound, overall it felt more 80s pop than anything progressive or experimental. Of course, that atmosphere can be fun to dance to, it can be pretty to watch, but it’s rarely mind-blowing.
Perhaps School of Seven Bells have played a few too many shows here in recent years, and with some time, coule rebuild their live set to showcase the creativity that their albums prove they are capable of.