Evident even from their self-titled debut, Beach House are a band who are at home with their own sound: unique, rich and ambient soundscapes consisting of Alex Scally’s guitar coupled with Victoria Legrande’s keyboards and breathy, sultry vocals. To continue with this formula six years and four albums later would seem risky to many less beloved and acclaimed bands, however, the word ‘own’ is key here. Although influence and comparison can be drawn from such dream pop forbears as Cocteau Twins, which is apt considering that they’re on Bella Union over here, Beach House have honed this sound until it has become signature and exemplary whilst still evolving and expanding from album to album.
Nowhere is this more evident than on their latest record, Bloom. Whilst retaining everything Beach House-ian about them, the latest album sees the band delve into more electronic territory, with a more prominent role for the drum machine, which often introduces the song with an unusual twist on their usual formulae. It is these new approaches and arrangements that set this apart from previous efforts. It is layered, structured, complex; it is both surprising and familiar.
‘The Hours’ retains the sharp catchy chorus’ in which so often has laid their appeal, however its relatively heavy motif coupled with Scally’s usual well placed slide guitar represents the progression of the band from its previous, on occasion overly twee, material to a edgier sound with notable seamlessness. Similarly, ‘New Year’ and ‘On The Sea’ show this progression; the former subtly melancholic and mournful and the latter embodying its title with a 2/4 piano chord sequence which brings to mind an idealised notion of seaside excursions whilst the atmospheric slide guitar and closing sea crashing, windy effects envision the vastness of the ocean itself; its sadness and mystery recalling optimistic, but ultimately doomed, voyages.
Some of the tracks don’t quite hit the mark and the best tracks are all crowded into the end of the record, creating a very occasionally boring introduction to an otherwise excellent album. It also grows on the listener; the first time it’s heard doesn’t seem as vital or interesting as subsequent listens; however, it is worth the wait.
Beach House, in collaboration with Teen Dream producer Chris Coady, have once again created a magnificent record. A concise collection from a band who continues to amaze and adapt: it doesn’t even seem like they’re trying.
Released on 14th May 2012 by Bella Union