Beach House ascend to seventh heaven with an album that challenges the preconceptions of their sound - a modern classic for the dream pop genre
Beach House’s new album opens with a drum fill. Not the mechanical thud of a programmed machine, but an echoing, rumbling live drum that propels its listener headfirst into the album. This alone could be considered sacrilege for long-term Beach House fans – we’re not eased into a comforting suite of bedroom dream-pop but thrust into the alluringly experimental world of 7, an album that gives new life to the Beach House sound through its boundless creativity and ambition. The song in question, ‘Dark Spring’, is a gorgeous and kaleidoscopic piece, its lead synthesiser taking cues from Arcade Fire’s ‘No Cars Go’ and its shrieking guitar line soaring through the track like a bird of prey. The video is equally ecstatic, with shaky camerawork cutting together black and white dreamscapes to create an experience both haunting and hallucinatory – an audio-visual treat to welcome you into this new age of Beach House’s musical career. Such a drastic reinvention for the band might make this album come across as a gimmick, but the duo uses their expanded scope and ambition to craft an album that’s equal parts alien and familiar, a gorgeous work of art from a duo at their creative best.
The band maintain this expanded sonic palate across the album’s runtime, each track trying something a little different, warping the perception of what a Beach House song should sound like. The acidic tone of ‘Lemon Glow’ or the colossal, rumbling instrumentation of ‘Dive’ are unlike anything in their catalogue so far – captivating in both their uniqueness and execution. These songs are almost polar opposites, the former dragging the listener into a caustic, gothic swirl of distorted, wheezing instrumentation whilst the latter spirals forever upwards – Alex Scally’s operatic guitarwork climactically building before an abrupt end. There are more subtle examples of this rejuvenation of the tried-and-tested Beach House formula in songs like ‘Black Car’, its sinister science-fiction synth line equal parts mesmerising and haunting, or on ‘Drunk in LA’ where a chirping sample forms the backbone of the song as synthetic voices loom close behind, before being overwhelmed by waves of distortion.
The album also has a smattering of more traditional Beach House songs, such as the wistful ‘Lose Your Smile’ where delicately fingerpicked guitar sits centre-stage, or the upbeat, sublime ‘Woo’, an ode to unrequited love that hits a classic Beach House chord. The duo seem to be in a state of reassurance on these tracks – telling their listener that amidst all this change, they’ll still have time to make bittersweet, melancholic blankets of songs. This is all before album finale ‘Last Ride’, an extended piece utilising delicate, low-fidelity piano alongside a buzzing guitar drone that hovers over the track, occasionally surfacing to a shriek and whine, contorting around the bliss and serenity resting underneath. Victoria LeGrand’s voice is as honeyed and soothing as ever on this track, her lyrics equal parts reassuring and emotionally barbed. “There she goes / Under the sun” she sings, a bittersweet sentiment that echoes in the mind as the instrumentation washes together into a melancholic collage to close off the record.
7 is a truly important album for Beach House, representing a shift in their sound that feels as effortless as it does surprising. It’s an ode to changing times and to the relationships weathered, strained and stressed by modernity – an opulent, gleaming jewel in the crown of Beach House’s discography. It’s more ethereal, distorted and haunting than anything they’ve produced so far – a testament to their breadth of influences and talent as musicians, a modern classic and a new standard for the dream-pop genre.
7 is available May 11th, via Bella Union