Beach House – Depression Cherry (Bella Union)

Beach House – Depression Cherry (Bella Union)


untitled (267)Baltimore’s Beach House have existed for over ten years now, and Depression Cherry is their fifth album, following 2012’s well-received long playerBloom.

It may seem lazy to make a comparison between Beach House and Cocteau Twins, as this album again appears on former Cocteaus bassist Simon Raymonde’s excellent Bella Union label. However, the way this duo are ploughing a lone furrow, making expansive yet intimate records, seemingly without any contemporaries, certainly reminds me of Grangemouth’s finest. The way that Beach House are doing this while perhaps being a little under-appreciated in their lifetime also brings to mind the Cocteaus. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there is a cross-over in the two outfits’ audiences.

The music itself though could only be Beach House from the very first note; Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, (for they are Beach House), have pulled off that rare trick of using quite basic instruments and yet distilling a sound all of their own. I was so in awe of Bloom that I was almost nervous to hear Depression Cherry; could they actually produce something comparable to that incredible album? And yet, as soon as opener ‘Levitation’ gently unfurls itself, it is clear that this is going to be another very special record.

I soon wonder what on earth I was worried about – the duo have been fine-tuning their sound, making only the slightest changes, if any at all, over the last few albums, but this is not a criticism. In the same way as, say, Tindersticks or The Blue Nile operate, they have their sound and are not going to come back with a surprise drum and bass album or get Mark Ronson in to produce them. Each album takes a further step into their world and each album defines that world even further.

‘Sparks’ was shared as a taster for the album and is a good entry point for the uninitiated (link below) – the trademark simple drum beat, organ sounds and guitar, in turns distorted and clean, below Legrand’s remarkable voice. If (4AD Records collective) This Mortal Coil were to make another album, they would surely be hammering on her door. Legrand soars seemingly effortlessly, never showy, always devastatingly pure.

Third track ‘Space Song’ is probably sounds the most like a potential single from the album. There is maybe nothing as immediate as Bloom’s single ‘Lazuli’, but after two or three listens, the melodies are truly implanted and you wouldn’t want it any other way. Certainly, Depression Cherry sounds like an album that was designed to be listened to in full, and once it starts, 45 minutes floats by in what seems like 15.

’10:37′ takes the simplicity even further, it sounds like it was recorded using the primitive rhythm section of an old organ, gradually layering on a simple bass line, then further keyboard sounds and when the beautiful guitar comes in again later: it is like the sun breaking through the clouds.

Beach House definitely know that ‘less is more’ is a rule to be applied to great effect – if you listen to any of these songs, there are not many layers, no tricks, but not a second of instrumentation or vocals is wasted and the resulting sound is somehow as far from ‘low-fi’ as you could feasibly get. ‘Wildflower’ is another example of this approach – after a few listens it is like you have known it your whole life.

‘Days Of Candy’ is the ninth and final track and is a beautiful way to end the album, beginning with an almost hymnal chorus of voices and it is almost three minutes until that simple drum machine makes an appearance, and the song gradually drifts over the horizon and you want it to come back.

An excellent addition to the formidable Beach House canon.

[Rating:5]

Depression Cherry is released on 28th August 2015.

 

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