On Ghostory, their third full-length, School of Seven Bells cast an ethereal spell – especially during those moments when they sound like a real-life band playing together in a room: drums mimicking a manic human pulse, chrome-plated guitars stabbing through the icy mix like butcher knives. Urgent opener “The Night” gets things off to an immaculate start; it’s Krautrock, if Germany were a country on Mars – a shivering parade of synths, a flutter of super-charged hi-hats, and alien-siren Alejandra Deheza’s reverb-coated croon. Elsewhere, though, they tread water with only moderate pay-off – more countdown than blast-off.
With 2010′s Disconnect from Desire, School of Seven Bells conjured up a dreamy blend of shoegaze and ’80s electro-pop. Ghostory continues along that same stylistic trajectory, but the immediacy has been dialed down – instruments and voices swirl beneath reverb, and melodies are spit-shined with blinding studio gloss. Throughout, the band downplays muscle in favor of ambience (like on the ghostly, Enya-esque “Reappear”), and outside of the ecstatic “The Night,” it’s hard to spot a stand-out single in the bunch. But in spite of its often monochromatic sound, Ghostory greatly rewards patient listeners. Even at its most emotionally flat, it often feels like a sustained mood piece – perfect for driving aimlessly on a foreign interstate, for switching off your brain and disappearing into the music’s absorbing fog.