It's not a big surprise that Ghostly up-and-comers School of Seven Bells toured with Blonde Redhead. Both groups share a readiness to layer thick gauze over their big, booming compositions — to thrilling, dizzying effect. Despite clearly having knelt at the altar of the seminal 4AD dream-pop sound, SOSB aren't content to twiddle with pedals or navel-gaze. Rather than getting lost gazing skyward, there's clearly a push here to look forward. Alpinisms chirps and throbs with chattering drum machines and jumpy electronic pulses — syncopated, almost-Afrobeat rhythms and trippy, layered compositions ensure that their debut full-length sounds not just pretty, but engaging.
Neither of this trio's former bands — the twinkly On!Air!Library! and the raucous rockers Secret Machines — have the kitchen-sink exuberance of Seven Bells 'sound. They jump right into it with "Face to Face on High Places," a big, joyous, near-tropical stomp and the stuttering, glistening "Half Asleep," which features soaring harmonies from the Bells 'singing twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. To listen to Alpinisms is to catalogue a distinctly restless, creative energy. Big, pillowy keyboards, hurried shakers, gangs of bouncing-around vocals — never a dull moment. The back half of the album settles itself into a slightly less-manic groove, coming down from the 11-minute sprawl of "Sempiternal/Amaranth" with "Chain"'s squiggly, auto-tuned electro-pop. With their first full album coming almost four years after the trio first began collaborating, it's clear that they wanted to load Alpinisms with ideas. Luckily, all of those ideas are great ones.