Austin City Limits

ACL Fest Preview: School of Seven Bells and Prescott Curlywolf

For the next three weeks, Rocks Off will be bringing you two or three short previews a day of artists playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park October 2-4. That's right, ACL is 17 days away - where is this year going? (Same place as all the other ones, we suspect.) It's for our own edification as well; we're trying to figure out who among the 120-something acts we're not that familiar with might be worth skipping, say, Thievery Corporation or Andrew Bird for.

School of Seven Bells: Intriguing Brooklyn three-piece consisting of identical twins Claudia and Alejandra Deheza, formerly of ambient outfit On! Air! Library!, and former Secret Machine Ben Curtis, who met when they were all on tour with Interpol. According to SSB's Wikipedia page, "The three decided to end their commitments to their old bands, move into a shared space, and create a home recording studio together," so who knows what kind of bohemian grab-assery is going on over there.

Judging by their music, they exist on a steady diet of green tea and antidepressants. If this were still the '90s, people might call SSB's electronics-driven sound "dream-pop" - it's a rainbow swirl of synthesizers, drum machines, sticky-sweet melodies a la Lush or Stereolab and harmonies that introduce just a touch of dissonance. So far the trio has released 2007's 12" EP Face to Face on High Places, collaborated with digital-underground rapper Prefuse 73 on his "Class of 73 Bells" single and the 2008 LP Alpinism. If the weather's nice, their breezy but mysterious electro-pop could be just the midday ticket.

(12:30 p.m. Friday, October 2, LIVESTRONG East stage.)

Prescott Curlywolf: Only semi-active now, mostly because drummer Chris Deaner lives in Brooklyn and mans the skins for electro-indie band +/-, Prescott Curlywolf was one of Rocks Off's absolute favorite bands during his time in Austin in the '90s and early '00s, where they were more or less the house band at our beloved Electric Lounge. The quartet plays power-pop filtered through a hardcore lens, like the bastard offspring of Pete Townshend - or Townshend's No. 1 fan, Guided by Voices' Bob Pollard - and Black Flag's Greg Ginn. All Prescott's LPs are good (the latest is 2001's Arkadelphia), but 1998's Funanimal World - with swingin' neckbreakers like "Baldachino" and "Thicker," and rough-hewn acoustic serial-killer paean "Starkweather" - is Rocks Off's pick, and worth seeking out on Amazon or wherever else you can find it.

Prescott also loves a good cover, anything from Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" and Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" to Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys' "Stay All Night, Stay A Little Longer." Finally, guitarist Ron Byrd is also a practicing physician whose patients include many of his brethren in the Austin music scene - and, at one time, Rocks Off himself.

(11:45 a.m. Friday, October 2, XBox 360 Stage.)

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray