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Beach House - 7 (Album Review)

Thursday, 17 May 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Beach House don't make bad albums, which is perhaps unsurprising given the nature of their sound. The most striking thing about all of their records is how similar they've sounded, repeatedly making use of the same successful formula to the point where the Baltimore duo have become the reference point for an entire genre. If you're making dream pop in the 21st century and you've not listened to Beach House, are you really doing it right?

It's easier to express the overall aesthetic that Beach House create than it is to identify individual components. The languid guitar lines, wispy vocal melodies and hallmark reverb aren't dramatically impressive in isolation – they serve a greater whole, which is lush and expansive and all-encompassing. But, after six consistent records, the challenge is to develop this sound in a meaningful way.

For the most part, the aptly named '7' does exactly that, spicing up the band's signature model with some interesting new sonic flourishes.

For starters, they're less attached to guitar-based templates, constructing textured panoramas with little more than multi-layered melodies on keys and Victoria Legrand's double-tracked voice.

The band have long been compared to ‘90s shoegazers like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, but you'd have to go back further to pinpoint what informs their approach on the ethereal lead single Lemon Glow. With its pulsing electronics and choral-style harmonies, the track has an otherworldly feel reminiscent of Cocteau Twins or even Dead Can Dance.

The Gothic influence is even more pronounced on Black Car, an entrancing synth-led cut that measures up as one of the most brooding and ominous they've ever written. Admittedly, these moments, anchored by Legrand's lethargic delivery, are more bittersweet than outright dark, but it reflects the band's goal of making a record that sounds fresh.

Alex Scally's liberal approach to instrumentation certainly helps with that, as does the loose production handled by Peter Kember (Spacemen 3). There's a maturity to Legrand’s performance too – where she has been guilty of sometimes over-emoting on previous albums, she's the focal point on the psychedelic opening salvo Dark Spring and Pay No Mind due to her sheer presence.

And for all the band's haze-like sonics are a part of their appeal, there's a dynamism to '7' that was somewhat missing from their previous two efforts. Dive, in particular, progresses naturally from pleasant and beige to gripping and galloping, matching live drummer James Barone's purposeful rhythms with Scally's slide guitar. Woo is another highlight, delicately layering beautiful countermelodies over scattered triplets.

Passersby may not acknowledge or even identify these improvements, while much of their lyrical output remains vague and somewhat subsidiary to the overall mood which they attempt to convey. But Beach House are not a band defined by marketing stunts or provocative statements; they prefer to make incremental changes to better articulate their musical vision. This makes perfect sense: '7' might be a slow burner, but it's their most adventurous and awe-inspiring album yet.

Beach House Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed October 17 2018 - LONDON Troxy
Thu October 18 2018 - LONDON Troxy
Fri October 19 2018 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sat October 20 2018 - DUBLIN Vicar Street

Click here to compare & buy Beach House Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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