School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells

with Active Child

The Social, Orlando, Fl • October 15, 2010

One of the defining elements of School of Seven Bells, as a band, is their dreamy harmonies produced by identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. So when, two days prior to the Orlando show I’d be attending, the group announced that Claudia had “left the band for personal reasons,” I was both bummed that I wouldn’t get to SEE what I’d been hearing on record, and curious as to whether or not Alejandra and guitarist Benjamin Curtis could still pull off the music without altering their unique sound.

School of Seven Bells

Jen Cray
School of Seven Bells

Before any determination could be made about the newly downsized SVIIB, Los Angeles’ Active Child was laid bare for our consideration.

Active Child is essentially one man, Pat Grossi, who not only writes all the music and plays all of the instruments, but whose church choir trained voice is nothing short of jaw dropping. When the jock-figured Grossi sits behind a harp at center stage joined by a bassist beside him and opens the air up to his vocals that range from a beautiful midrange Ian McCulloch-style to an otherworldly falsetto, it’s not immediately apparent as to whether or not the resulting music is glorious or ghastly.

Active Child

Jen Cray
Active Child

His voice is untouchable, there is no argument about that, but the combination of it with the myriad of electronic sounds he layers around it (assisted by prerecorded tracks on his computer) is new-agey to an annoying degree. Rather the fact that the majority of the music is cued up on his laptop makes the live aspect feel more like karaoke than a concert.

Why must so much of live music be prerecorded these days? Get some players, people!

Active Child just may be one of the few bands I would prefer to listen to on record than see live, because at least then it’s all prerecorded.

SVIIB's Alejandra Deheza

Jen Cray
SVIIB’s Alejandra Deheza

The School of Seven Bells that stood before the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at The Social was a band in transition. Not only have they lost a band member (bad), but they’ve also recently added a live drummer (good) in the form of Zach Saginaw. The pulsating energy and perky persona that Saginaw brings to the band’s live performance is positively critical now that the quietly passive Alejandra and the hipster cool of Curtis aren’t given the exotic vocal, and visual, boost of having Claudia balance out the stage. For now he seems to be merely a touring band footnote, garnering no band credit on any of their websites, but if School of Seven Bells want to continue to expand their sound they should lock him down and fast! For his contributions to “Babelonia” and “Heart is Strange” alone he should become a full fledged member.

Curtis, who was the guitarist for Secret Machines as well as the drummer for ’90s one-hit-wonder alt rock band Tripping Daisy, is mesmerizing to watch onstage — as much for his abilities on the guitar as for his wonderfully coiffed hairdo! Like the unspoken bandleader, he slides around the stage, cozying up to Alejandra and playing at the edge of the drumkit before slowly making his way back to his corner in time to slip in some backup vocals. His importance in the band is undeniable, but even it must take a backseat to the presence of guitarist and, now, lead singer Alejandra. She doesn’t have to do much but play her parts and let loose that voice to hold Orlando’s heart in her hands.

School of Seven Bells

Jen Cray
School of Seven Bells

After opening up with the song that made me fall in love with this band in the first place, “Half Asleep” from 2008’s Alpinisms, the remaining blink-and-you-missed-it set was off of their most recent release, Disconnect from Desire. Less than ten songs, and they called it a night. Short, sweet and potent — the short time spent with SVIIB was emphatically dreamy with the sole sister’s voice packing the same sort of transportive qualities as Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes.

Bookending the set, the band closed with another song from Alpinisms, the haunting “My Cabal.”

To see more photos from this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.

School of Seven Bells: www.sviib.com • Active Child: activechildmusic.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Jacqueline Kerrod
    Jacqueline Kerrod

    17 Days in December (Orenda Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Pokey Lafarge
    Pokey Lafarge

    In The Blossom Of Their Shade (New West Records). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • Best of Film 2021
    Best of Film 2021

    Lily and Generoso select and review their ten favorite features, seven supplemental films, and two prized repertory releases of 2021.

  • I Saw A Dozen Faces…
    I Saw A Dozen Faces…

    From The Windbreakers to Bark, Tim Lee is a trooper in the rock and roll trenches…and he’s lived to tell it all in his new memoir.

  • The Lyons
    The Lyons

    A man on his deathbed is surrounded by bickering family members, many of which you would strangle him given the chance. In other words: a brilliant comedy!

  • The Reading Room
    The Reading Room

    Today’s episode features author Anna-Marie O’Brien talking about her book Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian: A Rock N’ Roll Memoir with Ink 19’s Rose Petralia.

  • Bush Tetras
    Bush Tetras

    Rhythm and Paranoia (Wharf Cat). Review by Scott Adams.

  • Tom Tom Club
    Tom Tom Club

    The Good The Bad and the Funky (Nacional). Review by Julius C. Lacking.

  • Barnes & Barnes
    Barnes & Barnes

    Pancake Dream (Demented Punk Records). Review by Carl F. Gauze.

  • Jeremiah Lockwood
    Jeremiah Lockwood

    A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album (Reboot). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

From the Archives