Photos / Live Review: Fujiya & Miyagi, School of Seven Bells @ 9:30 Club (2009.02.19)

All Photos: Greg Szeto


After seeing School of Seven Bells (SVIIB, Wiki) play live, it became apparent to me why Ben Curtis may have been driven to leave the Secret Machines at a seemingly inopportune time. Curtis’ musical ideas clearly wanted to go in a more atmospheric direction, somewhat opposed to the aural pyrotechnics that the Machines tend to explode with; even moreso, I think it’s fairly clear that he wanted to orchestrate more than his singular guitar voice amidst the bombastic din that forms the bread and butter of any great Secret Machines’ song.

Curtis was almost giddy with glee last week (though his poker-face didn’t betray), as he stomped around his modest effects box, setting loose all manner of airy synths, electronic loops and distortion effects. He has taken his place as a full-fledged arranger and composer of music with aplomb. Recorded, it sounds like SVIIB view the music as purely a vehicle for the sirenic vocal harmonies of the Deheza twins.

Last Thursday night, Curtis asserted himself and dispelled that notion. In live performance, that dreamy cloud of sound that SVIIB creates can swallow you whole.  And it is just as gorgeous as the vocal harmony.  The downside of their set was that the music, while arresting, never seemed to attain a proper peak and release. Almost as if Curtis was holding a little back, just to toy with us; in that sense, we could have used a little bit more influence from his Secret Machines days.

Fujiya & Miyagi (F&M, Wiki) upgraded their live show by leaps and bounds since last we met at the Ottobar.  Then, the crowd was sparse and the music sparser (which works to a large extent with F&M’s lean, slinky Krautrock recreations).  However, by night’s end things were getting more than a bit monotonous and eyelids were weighing heavy on the audience.

So I entered into their set with trepidation and modest expectations, and came out pleasantly surprised.  Their time on the road since releasing 2006′s Transparent Things has served them well and they clearly learned some lessons in crafting an engaging live show.  While keeping a spare approach in most aspects of the music, particularly Best’s fantastic-if-monotone vocals, they keep faithful to the original recorded material.  

Recognizing the need for a bit more immediacy, they have recruited a powerhouse drummer to lay down percussive beats as opposed to the drum machine from previous tours and they turned the bass amp to 11.  These two relatively simple change-ups did wonders to stimulate the dancing centers of the brain.  Add in a projector with some stylish, minimalist imagery and things become infinitely more interesting than 3 blokes lounging on stage, pumping out loping, soporific grooves.  Now F&M just need to figure out where to take their sound next and produce a different album.

School of Seven Bells


Fujiya & Miyagi


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One Response to “Photos / Live Review: Fujiya & Miyagi, School of Seven Bells @ 9:30 Club (2009.02.19)”

  1. Girl No. 1 says:

    Totally crushin’ on SVIIB

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