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ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with Day to Day.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Legend has it there was once a school for thieves, where they would dress up a mannequin and attach sleigh bells to its pockets. Students had to lift a wallet from each of the pockets without ringing any of the bells in order to graduate. Hence the name: School of Seven Bells. That name is now being used by a new band. Their debut CD is called "Alpinisms." Music journalist Christian Bordal recently invited School of Seven Bells here to NPR West.

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CHRISTIAN BORDAL: Last year, Benjamin Curtis and twin sisters Alejandra, or Ally, and Claudia Deheza left the bands they were in, moved in together, set up a home recording studio, and launched an all-consuming music project they call School of Seven Bells. Ally says the arrangement blurs the line between life and art.

Ms. ALEJANDRA DEHEZA (School of Seven Bells): It's always a part of what you're doing. One can't be doing - working on something without the other one hearing it. So, it's kind of, like, you know, you can be in the kitchen, like, making a sandwich or something, and you hear Claudia, like, in the room with her synth or something, and you have to respond.

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BORDAL: The music and lyrics on "Alpinisms" have a dreamy, droney, ethereal quality. And in a song called "Wild for Light," Ally writes about her interest in something called lucid dreaming.

(Soundbite of song "Wild for Light")

Ms. DEHEZA: I can be in a dream, and I'll know that I'm dreaming, so I'll know that I can pretty much make anything happen. I'll know that everything that's there is out of my head. So, I can make somebody appear or, you know, if I want to go somewhere else, I can do that, too. So, it's just kind of like just having control over what you see, pretty much.

BORDAL: So, you've become the deity of your own dreaming?

(Soundbite of laugher)

Ms. DEHEZA: That's a cool way to look at it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song "Wild for Light")

BORDAL: But Ally doesn't agree that her lyrics are abstract or obscure.

Ms. DEHEZA: I don't think it's very abstract at all, which is really funny. I understand why people do think it's abstract, but I'm basically just communicating things exactly as they come to my head.

Mr. BENJAMIN CURTIS (School of Seven Bells): And the sound, it's usually inspired by the words, you know, rather than vice versa, you know? We always do the vocals first in this band. That's a really big, big deal for us.

BORDAL: Ally and Claudia are identical twins, and their harmonies are incredibly precise. They're like two heads of the same beast. They sing all the songs on the album together, and their complex vocal interplay is at the band's heart. Here's Benjamin.

Mr. CURTIS: To me, it's - that's the most important part of School of Seven Bells. You know, I mean, everything else is accompaniment, you know, in my opinion.

BORDAL: In the studio, I asked them to do one of the songs off the new album a capella.

(Soundbite of song "Connjur")

SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS: (Singing) How does someone with nothing end Up with so much to show for it? All kinds of people, places and things, Your cheap doormats and decorations...

BORDAL: That's from a song called "Connjur," which sounds like this with the rest of the backing track.

(Soundbite of song "Connjur")

BORDAL: That song, in particular, reminds me of another sibling vocal duo in a '70s prog-rock band called Gentle Giant.

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BORDAL: School of Seven Bells' jagged vocal phrasing, the almost madrigal vocal style and the somewhat self-conscious, sweeping, suggestive lyrics all fit the style of '70s progressive rock. But instead of pairing that vocal style with the musical bombast of the era, School of Seven Bells creates backing tracks that owe more to Cocteau Twins' atmospherics and shoe-gazer drones. The result is a warm and embracing, swirling, sonic miasma with a center of crystal and harmonies as its anchor. Not all the songs are equally effective, but there are enough really good ones here to make the record worth checking out.

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BORDAL: For NPR News, this is Christian Bordal.

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COHEN: The band is School of Seven Bells. Christian Bordal is a music journalist based a few blocks from the beach in Southern California. You can hear complete tracks from "Alpinisms" at NPR's music Web site, npr.org/music. Day to Day is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Cohen.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand.

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