Sunday, 1 March 2009

School Of Seven Bells + Kyte + Apache Beat @ Cargo 26/2/09

Yet another band to emerge from Brooklyn’s crowded scene (is there anyone left there not wielding musical aspirations of global proportions?), Apache Beat combine intense, angular post-rock with the razor-sharp vocals of Christina Aceto. At least, they do on record. Tonight in Cargo Apache Beat don’t quite manage to hold their own on a storming line-up that leaves them slightly awash in their own noisy, pompous pop. There’s just too much going on as dreamy synths pull strong guitar riffs apart at the seams, while percussion rains down, powerless to anchor such disparate musical elements. Aceto should dominate on vocal-led songs such as ‘Knives’, but she lacks charisma tonight, at one point meekly dropping the mic at the end of a track in what is obviously intended as a gesture of rock ‘n’ roll recklessness, but ends up looking like a sort of resigned defeatism.

Kyte fare better, but still lack the hypnotic, gilded polish and sonic confidence that they mastered on last year’s eponymous mini-album. This handsome Leicestershire quartet sculpts mesmerising soundscapes, combining dreamy Scandinavian pop and Postal Service’s glitchy electronic clarity. There is some discrepancy between Nick Moon’s recorded vox-vocals, which breathe effortlessly through shimmering synths and icy keyboards, and his live performance, which comes over brasher and more affected as he repeatedly sweeps his hands through his hair, cowering over keys. But this is perhaps to be expected from an act that requires a large amount of pre-recording to render their music live, and their set still holds up in the dark, cavernous venue. It’s the perfect setting for the ecclesiastical beauty of ‘Boundaries’ and the yellow-hued glimmer of the aptly named ‘Sunlight’. As the only UK-based band on the bill, they do our solitary isle proud.

Numbers swell remarkably in Cargo’s dingy underbelly ready for School Of Seven Bells. New York’s darling band of the hour have gone from relative unknowns to one of the most sought-after acts of the year so far with their stunning debut ‘Alpinisms’, and the turn-out reflects this remarkable ascendancy to the dizzy-heights of the trend-setter. Part of the reason for their new-found popularity is their ability to combine modernistic pop sensibilities with infectious, tribal beats. But they also employ a powerful mystique due to the magnetic beauty of twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza and a propensity for abstraction that would come across as pretentious were it not for the fact that they have the musical grounding to merit a bit of ostentation (they list ‘the dialogue with heaven, earth and death’ as their influences on myspace, for example).

On stage Alejandra stands spotlighted in front, grinning like a stage-school protégé as she executes pitch-perfect vocal harmonies with help from sister Claudia. Meanwhile ex-Secret Machines guitarist Benjaman Curtis broods in the back, his face obscured for most of the set. Single ‘iamundernodisguise’, which has received considerable radio airplay in recent weeks, appears early on. Towards the end the tracks become brighter and build in intensity. ‘Half Asleep’ is particularly well-received, revealing some well-versed fans in the cramped audience, where as ‘Chain’ chugs, its syncopated vocals rooted above sliding electronic effects.

School Of Seven Bells radiate with confidence in both sound and style, making them worthy inheritors of hype that would have swamped lesser acts. The trio embark on an almost impossibly hectic touring schedule right through to summer, a season that will surely cement them as one of New York’s most exciting musical exports in 2009.

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