Ateleia: Nightly
Radium / Table of the Elements

School of Seven Bells: Face to Face on High Places
Radium / Table of the Elements

The 12-inch Face to Face on High Places makes for a dazzling School of Seven Bells debut, especially when the EP's material arrives on a gorgeous slab of clear, laser-etched vinyl. Guitarist Benjamin Curtis (ex-Secret Machines), bassist James Elliott (Ateleia), and drummer Joe Stickney generate a raucous, loose-limbed groove in the pummeling opener “Limb By Limb” that's nicely offset by the breezy, intricate harmonizing of twin sisters Alejandra Deheza (On!Air!Library!) and Claudia Deheza (Prefuse 73, On!Air!Library!, A Cloud Mireya). The disc's centerpiece, “Face to Face on High Places,” opens in pounding dancehall mode before the guitarist and singers lift it off into the stratosphere; Elliott and Stickney ecstatically follow their lead and soon enough the quintet's collectively stoking an inferno of psychotropic noise that unspools for nine minutes. Calmer winds prevail throughout the EP's closer, “s.Ada.Licht,” as the instrumentalists opt to more restrainedly support the vocalists' willowy ruminations. Though a mere three songs, Face to Face on High Places remains an auspicious debut that makes one hungry for a lengthier School of Seven Bells presentation.

Listeners familiar with Elliott's Ateleia output will be pleased that his involvement in School of Seven Bells hasn't curtailed his solo endeavours. The four-track EP Nightly obviously wends a much darker route than Elliott's Formal Sleep and Swimming Against the Moments full-lengths, and the stark black packaging suggests that Ateleia might be closer in spirit to Deathprod this time around than anyone else. In contrast to the latter's glacial material, there's considerable more activity in play in these Ateleia pieces. An ominous wave of industrial tones drifts through “In Inner Air,” blanketing everything with a thin coating of grey soot. Animated percussive ripples breathe life into “Threaded,” lending it a careening motorik feel, while swathes of hazily shimmering textures add spectral ambiance. An early krautrock vibe shadows the muted thrums and low-level propulsion of “Sphere and Locked”; one's attention gradually shifts, however, to the muffled howl, enveloping blur, and blistered guitar lines that Elliott drapes overtop before the closing title piece suspends the listener over a yawning abyss. Nightly's twenty-five minutes vanish quickly, but Ateleia's ultra-detailed dark ambient material leaves a strong aftertaste.

October 2007