“Can you hear everything?” School of Seven Bells’ Alejandra Deheza asked the crowd at Austin, Tex.’s Buffalo Billiards shortly after midnight last night. Getting more specific, she added, “The beats?” She needn’t have worried. Drum machines are present in the mix throughout SVIIB’s recent debut, Alpinisms, but they played an even more prominent role at the band’s set for KCRW’s SXSW showcase, pounding unstoppably away behind them as they “Connjur”-ed shoegazey walls of guitar feedback and high vocal harmonies. It was a sound that could just as easily put you in a reflective trance or make you dance for your life.
The trio has an intriguingly tangled backstory: Alejandra Deheza (pictured, left) and her twin sister Claudia used to be in an experimental act called On!Air!Library!, while guitarist Benjamin Curtis was in Secret Machines with his brother, Brandon. The two sibling-led bands played very different kinds of music for the most part, but they toured together in 2004, and before long Curtis had defected (his word!) to form SVIIB with the Deheza twins. Seeing the new act live made it easy to understand how that happened. The three of them were jet-lagged after flying across the Atlantic earlier that day, but they were having a great time on stage, whispering jokes to one another and taking various technical sound glitches in stride. Musical chemistry like that is just too rare to disregard. It all added up to the best show I saw on my first day in Austin this year – save for the partial set I caught by St. Vincent, on whom I’ll have much more to say this weekend.