Bella Union – May 11th
Undulating synths, shimmering guitars, swooning vocals: after gorging on more than a decade’s worth of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s exquisite dream-pop, we all know what to expect from future Beach House releases before even listening to a note. Of course, the danger of carving such a distinct musical universe is that the artist’s vision can become stale, or niche to the point of parody.
It’s a potential pitfall that the Baltimore duo have purposely swerved on album number seven, first by clearing out the “creative closet” with the successive releases of 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars – plus last year’s B-Sides and Rarities compilation – and then by relinquishing established working methods, in pursuit of a fresh inspiration. In practise this meant beginning songs at their home studio, working without a hands-on producer, and removing the necessity to replicate arrangements live from any creative decisions.
Haunting album centrepiece ‘Black Cab’ is a standout, beginning with bubbling electronics and ticking percussion before synths are daubed in fluid strokes across the canvas, intertwined with Legrand’s half-whispered incantations. A paranoid darkness seeps into the set, capturing what the band term “the societal insanity of 2016-17,” but equally there’s an enveloping intimacy in the likes of ‘Lose Your Smile’. And while the results are still unmistakably the work of Beach House, 7 is arguably their freshest sounding and texturally-rich set since 2010’s breakthrough Teen Dream.
Buy: Beach House – 7