This was never going to be an easy listen.
As SVIIB unfurls in all its glory, the word ‘bittersweet’ has never felt more appropriate for an untimely swansong. This isn’t a matter of shattered ego or acrimonious break-ups, but an unfair see-saw of life and death that saw Benjamin Curtis being taken away far too soon. For most people, perhaps that news would have been enough to pack in School of Seven Bells. But Alejandra Deheza honours Curtis’s memory in the best way possible – a smattering of incredible electronic pop that feels like a band hitting the highs they truly deserve.
And you can’t get a better start than Ablaze, galloping as it does with washed-out riffs and Deheza’s slightly mournful tone. It’s the bridge between their beginnings in shoegaze and the synth-pop vibe of today’s landscape, also serving as a reminder that it’s going to be impossible not to extrapolate eulogies from every line. “How could I forget/ you saw the stars in me/ when I had sunk into the black,” Deheza sings before a celebratory chorus. Never has electronic pop sounded so uplifting yet so damn lump-in-the-throat essential.
The album continues with the same affinity for hooks and melody, as On My Heart takes Deheza’s rapid-fire delivery and punctuates it with it’s own school of tubular bells. The emotional hits remain constant too: “It’s time to wake up/ Open your eyes, love/ Cos you’ve been sleeping/ It’s getting hard to bear, watching you all alone,” says Open Your Eyes, as if directed towards the late bandmate.
If all of this sounds a little bit heavy, it’s only because of an individual’s own relationship to SVIIB and the interpretations we choose to have. The success to this final record is that sonically it remains celebratory – even on the airy and low-tempo vibe of Elias, Deheza seems to be nestling in the clouds; on the sparse Confusion, sunrise synths make it feel like the break of dawn rather than a heavy farewell. Appropriately, the album ends with a track called This Is Our Time. “Our time is indestructible,” Deheza sings, and she’s 100% correct. Everything that SVIIB stood for is crystallised in one impeccable album that Curtis would be proud of, and their legacy remains completely untouchable.