In Beach House's new album 7, the Baltimore-based duo evokes ethereal dreams, blurred thoughts and memories

Aatish Nath

Apr 23, 2019 16:26:58 IST

Named for the number of albums released by the band, 7 continues to find Beach House living in its own spaced out world. The Baltimore-based duo is known for evoking a dreamscape — gauzy, ethereal and some would say ideal for a toke.

Over the years, the two have refined their sound without getting repetitive (though sometimes they are still levelled with the criticism that each of their albums sounds the same), making generous use of reverberation, faded guitars and scuzzy low-end music that gives the entire soundscape a dreamlike feeling, and an almost monastic adherence to mood.

 In Beach Houses new album 7, the Baltimore-based duo evokes ethereal dreams, blurred thoughts and memories

Cover art of Beach House's 2018 album, 7. Image via Facebook

That sound is cut by Victoria Legrand's voice, which serves as an anchor on this album, just like the last six releases. On each album, her bandmate Alex Scally plays multiple instruments, though it’s his guitar that gives the music much of its personality. For this release, their touring drummer, James Barone was invited to record with them for the first time, and together the trio has released some of their darkest, most inventive work, oscillating between the dreamscapes they are known for and the off-the-cuff songs that seem to define this album.

The music that’s emerged from this session is immersive. In lesser hands it could become the kind of sound that fades into the background, lacking the markers that give it a hold in one's mind, but Beach House always make music that's evocative without being specific — allowing anyone who happens to listen to add their own memories to the experience. It is this trick that has given the band its cultish appeal. Its tunes empower those enjoying the music to feel familiar emotions, but also create a soundscape with enough hooks to move each song beyond “muzak” and into the territory of music to which its listeners can ascribe emotions, memories and dreams.

Beach House's Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand. Image via Twitter

Beach House's Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand. Image via Twitter

On 7, the signature sound stays the same, without maturing so much, widening their scope. It's for car rides when the brain feels clouded or for spaced out evenings when you want to retreat into another world, especially one you can't define. This quality, of seeking focus in a sound that is evocative of blurred thoughts, memories, dreams and even existence comes to the fore on this album, where it seems like the listener and the band are suspended in liminality.

'Dive', which appears halfway through the album sounds the most like the Beach House of the previous six albums, till the vocal intonations and haze dissolve into a beat that could undergird a remix to the song. This skill of melding worlds has been perfected on the 2018 release, but its something that’s been in the works for some time. Longtime trackers of the band will know that after releasing 2015’s Depression Cherry, they followed it up within months with Thank Your Lucky Stars, an album that they then referred to in interviews as being made, “for themselves.”7 then, is another piece of music that’s created by honing their skills, but caring less about the audience and more about what the music means to them.

On ‘Pay No Mind’, there’s an intoxicating melancholy to the story of love that’s narrated by Legrand, while ‘Lemon Glow’ is an ode to 60s psychedelia. That the album is able to jump from one song to another without losing its listeners or even its focus is a testament to producer Peter Kember, who was brought on to work on this album, and is collaborating with the band for the first time.

Spanning 47 minutes, the album manages to evoke many moods, going from the languorous to the dense, the melancholic to the introspective. The scale of emotions that the album takes you on is great, from the highest of highs to some necessary lows. Over the course of the band’s 12-year career, it has managed to hone its sound and distill it. With 7, there’s the sense of rebirth, of trying to plumb the depths of new emotions and of being truer to themselves. As is the case with most great art, we’re the better for it.

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Updated Date: Apr 23, 2019 16:26:58 IST