Friday, 28 August 2015

Beach House - Depression Cherry Review

Formed in 2004 in Baltimore, and comprised of vocalist and organist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally, Beach House have been a prominent and regular contributors to the dream pop and shoe gaze scene that re-emerged in the mid 2000’s, with bands such as A Place to Bury Strangers and more recently Eagulls championing a more aggressive and distorted version more reminiscent of the Jesus and Mary Chain than any dream pop band.  Beach House inhabit a more tranquil space on the spectrum, a choice which I find has led them to more engaging and creative consequences. 
Their eponymous debut album was released in 2006, to a muted commercial response but generally positive feedback from most critics.  Beach House have continued to hone and cultivate this abstract sound over the next three albums, “Devotion”, “Teen Dream” and “Bloom”, sculpting it into a vibrant and accessible vision, influenced by classic dream pop bands while maintaining an original and modern insight.
The first glimpse of Depression Cherry the band released was the single “Sparks”, which begins with what sounds like a tuneless vocal sample, but as the guitar bursts onto the scene it soon becomes an integral part of the overall tonality of the song.  What is most notable about the guitar tone is the harshness of the effects conscripted to enhance its abrasive presentation.  This is one of the few times that this form of distortion has been used so prominently by Alex Scally, and when this is coupled with the distant and reserved vocal melody the result is and song that is the closest thing to 90s shoegaze that the band have ever produced, it having clearly been inspired hugely by My Bloody Valentine.  
This was the sense I continued to garner when I eventually listened to the initial track of the album.  The vocals have generally taken a back seat, muffled by overdubs and more part of the instrumental than the prominent melodic feature.  Unlike “Sparks”, however, the first few songs of the album are far more subdued in their instrumental composition with the guitar being extremely effective in creating a thick surreal haze around the keyboard and drum machine parts, which play surprisingly potent parts, stripped of most of their effects.  On the track “Space Song” the guitar riff meshes beautifully with the keyboard arpeggios and staccato stabs played by Legrand.  Legrand’s vocals have been altered in “Space Song” to create an even more intense feeling that they’re simply another instrument intertwined in the music.  However, there is a marked reduction in the atmosphere produced by the reverb and other effects used to modify the songs.  This is a notably less dreamy album than its predecessors.   

“Beyond Love” finds Legrand behind the keys of a more electronic sounding keyboard, while Scally has altered his guitar settings to replicate more closely the sound heard on “Sparks”, and this is generally the direction the rest of the album takes, with the guitar being far clearer than on previous albums. 

In general Beach House have altered their sound enough to make this an improvement on Bloom, but they still seem unable to reach the same heights as found on Teen Dream.  This album is far less dependent upon effects to create a dense wall of sound, relying more on the duo’s individual talent and collective creativity.

  I personally feel the album fails to live up to the hype produced by Sparks, but I would certainly say this album is worth downloading if you’re already a fan of Beach House.

Charlie McCartney

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