No one really knows where dreams come from, what they mean or why we even have them. They’re indicative of a well of thoughts, fears and desires lurking hidden somewhere deep in our subconscious.
Baltimore “dream pop” duo Beach House, consisting of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, have perhaps been the most successful at capturing this strange ethereal concept in music over recent times. While not inventing the term or necessarily subscribing it to themselves, it seems like a perfect description of their work and ethos.
Scally and Legrand talk about themselves as a medium between the otherworld of art and the tangible world we inhabit. They throw out terms such as “fate” and “clairvoyancy” when describing their working relationship, writing songs with vague, strange metaphors that feel like they should mean something — even if you have no idea what that is.
Their breathlessly effortless music captures memories of long, hot, lazy summer days spent staring at clouds, not noticing the time until darkness descends.
Their arrangements seem disarmingly simple; usually a combination of old-school drum machines, haunting organ drones and echo-laden guitars with Legrand’s haunting distinctive vocals floating above. Yet the apparent simplicity of their sound shields a complex process of songwriting and a keen ear for a delicate and charming pop tune.
The best Beach House songs feel as if there’s a beginning and an end, with a beautiful, endless floating stream of sound within. They conjure a state of trance through swarms of reverb and echoes and droning distortion.
They hinted at their predilection for evolving through repetition in a recent interview.“Trance is a big part of our thing,” Scally told Pitchfork. “We’ll repeat a part for three hours while we wait for the next piece to fall into place.”
The wall-of-sound blast of glistening pop on 2008’s Teen Dream and 2010’s Bloom catapulted them into a rarefied space in alternative music scene and launched countless, mostly inferior imitators.
Now with their fifth album, the peculiarly named Depression Cherry, the band has stuck mostly to the formula which made their previous releases so well-received.
Lead single Sparks hinted at an evolution in Beach House aesthetics. With a looped sample of Legrand broken by a heavily distorted guitar and a disconcerting array of dark organ chords, the song marked a willingness to explore the darker, grimier aspects of a wall-of-sound production style.
However, the rest of the album refrains from diverging into the abrasive blasts of shoegaze and instead distils some of these elements into a gradual evolution of their sound.
Album opener Levitation starts off with a much more familiar array of endless organ chords, plucked guitars and Legrand’s chanting of “I’ll go anywhere you want to/ You should see, there’s a place I want to take you.” It’s an ethereal opening which captures the signature Beach House vibe.
Elsewhere on the record, Space Song is delicate dedication to romanticism; 10:37 a lilting ode to a person who casts no shadow and disappears from the world around them; while late-album cut Wildflower is a beguiling, yet elegantly beautiful track that channels their earlier work.
After five albums of mid-tempo, spaced out pop, Beach House seem more comfortable existing within the bounds of what they know. Depression Cherry is unlikely to impress anyone hoping for a burst of experimentalism from the band, but for anyone happy to get lost in the dream, and stay there, it’s another record of pure bliss.