Alejandra Deheza decided to name her new band School of Seven Bells after catching a late-night PBS documentary about a pickpocket academy in which thieves-in-training practice swiping valuables from dummies equipped with seven booby-trapped pockets. Not only is it a fitting metaphor for a band whose music is as meticulously crafted as the stealthy art of slipping one’s hand inside a tourist’s pocket without him or her noticing, but legend has it that the troupe of thieves (which may or may not exist at all) resides somewhere in the Andes Mountains just outside Bogota, Colombia. And mountaineering—the sport of mountain climbing, or “alpinism,” as they say in Europe, where everything seems to have a much fancier name—is the titular theme of School of Seven Bells’s full-length debut. The album opens with the 2007 EP track “Iamundernodisguise,” which begins with a drone and is quickly followed by a tribal percussion beat, bouncy bassline and fuzzy guitars before Deheza and her identical twin sister Claudia launch into a choral chant evocative, in equal parts, of their previous band On! Air! Library! and Sinead O’Connor. From there, the Dehezas and former Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis deftly juggle a mix of artificial and organic sounds, with mystical, Eastern-influenced dream-pop melding with tribal Afrobeat: “Half Asleep” is rife with glitchy electronics, sparkly synths and pensive guitar licks; “For Kalaja Mari” is ethereal and quietly meditative; and swarms of sisterly vocal harmonies create an aural mosquito net on the standout “Connjur.” The trio’s fascination with Eastern sounds culminates on the new age-y, 11-plus-minute “Sempiternal/Amaranth,” and, indicative of the whole of Alpinisms, the dual harmonies and inherently hypnotic cadences render music that is largely exhilarating occasionally monotonous.
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