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Beach House – [Album]

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Saturday, 02 June 2012

It has often been said that, of everyone currently making music anywhere on the pop spectrum, Bjork is the artist possessed of the ability to compose and produce music which is breathtaking in its delicacy and startling clarity. It's true, of course; Bjork has produced some very fine work but, with the release of Bloom, she may not go unrivaled in style or stature for much longer if Beach House has anything to say about it. On Bloom (the band's fourth album), Beach House finds the chilliest most rarely (if ever) touched spot on the musical polar icecap, gets comfortable there and begins sculpting ten flawless, transparent, frozen sculptures from the raw sonic material they find there. The results are a set of beautiful and thoroughly unique conglomerates that listeners can spend hours observing and scrutinizing, and still not even begin to descend deeper than the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

That description of Bloom may sound expansive and foreboding but, to its credit, that tip is also pretty vibrant and bears no small number of interesting sounds to behold. After “Myth” gets listeners settled in comfortably and slowly seems to lower the ambient temperature around them to just fluttering around zero, Beach House unveils its first masterpiece in the form of the potentially vicious but frozen “Wild” – a title which is more an expression of possibility than it is one of overt warning. There, singer Victoria Legrand gently stage whispers elegant couplets with a pitch-perfect tone which would make most Broadway stars jealous while multi-instrumentalist Alex Scully erects both the monumental images he'll present behind the singer (like the cliffs of Dover perhaps, or a cliff of solid ice which may or may not exist on the coast of Greenland or Iceland, or a Himalayan ice field) as well as the scaffolding he'll present it on. Because of that design, everything about Bloom is presented in chilly hues of blue, green, gray and yellow. The acts of creation and assemblage sounds as peaceful as the music actually is, and most listeners will feel themselves heaving exhausted sighs in spite of themselves; the beauty is real and doesn't offer listeners any good reason to turn away from it, so no one does. The trance-inducing swirl of synths, syncopated and arpeggiated guitars, swishing cymbals and Victoria Legrand's voice continues through the duration of Bloom with no gaffes or missteps and, in spite of the chilly nature of the music, no small number of listeners will happily inhabit it as the going gets sleepy on “Other People,” ecstatic (sort of – say, “ecstatic with the benefit of tranquilizers) on “The Hours,” vaudevillian on “Troublemaker” and cinematic on “Wishes.” Each of those turns presents complete shifts in mood without dropping even one structural sound or basic implement, so at no point do listeners get the impression that they've left the environment/backdrop they originated on – but there have been enough changes with each successive track to enlarge the scope of those surroundings. By the end, when “Irene” finally fades gracefully into oblivion, listeners will discover to their joy that they're surrounded by a 360-degree panorama of the world that Beach House has created, and there are more than enough spaces in that environment to inhabit. In that end, Bloom reveals itself to be a tremendous, multi-faceted exercise.

Artist:

www.beachhousebaltimore.com/
www.myspace.com/beachhousemusic
www.facebook.com/beachhouse
www.twitter.com/#!/beaccchhoussse

Album:

Bloom is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Beach House – [Album]

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Friday, 15 February 2008

I got to see Beach House open for Ariel Pink in the summer of 2006. Victoria Legrand's glassy stare and Alex Scally's literal shoe-gazing made for a dreamy performance of lo-fi somnolence. Looking back, I realize the duo's mental presence has always been true to their sound and moniker: somewhere between surf and fog, the music languishes in the barely-brushed ethereal, beautifully dreaming out soundscapes like the one that hung in the mirrored roil of the Echo.

Certainly this anesthetized feeling is a part of the lo-fi intrigue and a fine characteristic of Beach House's allure. In their second full-length album, Devotion, the band comes around with greater force and crispness, tweaking their musical ennui with primed pop strivings. The songs on Devotion are more distinctly formed with catchier hooks and bolder rhythmic swings, diminishing the former blasé float for a burnished pop brilliance. It's just a matter of whether you like that or not.

"Wedding Bell" opens up the album with a jaunty shuffle and a static-fuzzy harpsichord, creating a idiosyncratic combination of a baroque and cowboy song. Already it is louder and more confident than the previous Beach House fare. Consistently throughout, the record shimmers with ghosts. Legrand's low bass mourns in "You Came To Me" with touches of obsession and abandonment, revealing haunted topographies where the musical narrative roams. It's like a Brontë novel, fistfuls of flowers in the gloomy moors. On the other hand, "D.A.R.L.I.N.G." bounces with doo-wop sweetness. What makes Beach House unique is its pop propensity delivered in that heavy, eerie lo-fi pace, and the band tempers the saccharine doo-wop tradition with the bobbing weight of the organ. Resultingly, the song is perfectly despondent and sweet—so much it stings.

The rhythm section is particularly prominent—employing different objects to create sound, like the evocation of rain in "Some Things Last a Long Time" which then gives way to the brisk shatters of the tamborine. Even the windchimes that twinkle at the start of "D.A.R.L.I.N.G." add ambient texture that services the duo's mysterious vibe. Per usual, Beach House's familiar drum machine drips its rhythms in slicker echoes and the slide guitar yawns it melodies back at Legrand's sleepy intonation. This time around, the sounds sit in scintillating layers instead of the musical murk of before. Overall the sound is spidery rather than nebulous.

Devotion is definitely a more mature album, as one would expect in any second step. It displays complexity in its prominently layered song structures and variant rhythm-making. Its sweep is bigger and, arguably, better. Mainly, Devotion isn't as measured or muffled as the album preceding it, but it is more crafted at the cost of lo-fi's rough-hewn splendor. I suppose this a griping solely of my own because Devotion stands wonderful as it is. I'm just pining for Beach House's more furrowed melodies, the glints of gold in the haze. In the spectrum of their expanding discography, Devotion proves Beach House to be moving directionally, closer to the mid-wake state, with music that's stirring in bed sheets, dreaming more lucidly to the sea storm ghosts outside.

For more information visit myspace.com/beachhousemusic or www.beachhousemusic.net

Watch "You Came to Me":

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