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September 8, 2008 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Beach House

Hooray for quiet shows! “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” has long been my credo. Yet whilst the visceral thrills of such things as amps turned all the way up to 11, slamdancing, and that reassuring sound of tinnitus on the way home from the show have their place, sometimes its nice to go see some bands that won’t blow your mind with a wall of sound, but instead will offer you a cosy couch of melodic loveliness, and a cup of tea of majestic bliss. Beach House and Christchurch’s Bachelorette brought their own takes on spooky somnambulance to Bodega, and it made for a beautiful and entrancing experience.

I got to Bodega toward the end of Nikky Brinkman’s (from Over the Atlantic) opening set; it was pleasant enough laptop-meetsacoustic- guitar folksiness, but lacking any bite to make it especially memorable. Annabel Alpers aka Bachelorette, on the other hand, used a simple stage set-up (three computer monitors arranged around her, with simplistic soundwave graphics linked up to the drums, keys and vocals) that was really effective in conjunction with her machine-driven, yet warm, human and occasionally fragile songs. She utilised loops of her voice that she would harmonise with, creating a veritable choir that was quite stunning to listen to. Playing tracks from her excellent release The End of Things, as well as her full-length Isolation Loops, this was a really impressive set.

Baltimore’s Beach House have been specialising in well-crafted, melodic dream-pop for the past couple of years – both their albums (2006’s Beach House and their latest Devotion) trade on swathes of gorgeous analogue keys and organs, country-tinged guitars, simple drumbeats and Victoria Legrand’s singular sultry smoky siren-call of a voice. For this show, Legrand (vox, keys, organs) and Alex Scally (guitars, bv’s) were joined by drummer Dave Bergander, whose percussive wizardry really added a nice dimension to the set. Opening with Devotion’s ‘Wedding Bell’ and ‘You Came To Me’, the band quickly entranced the crowd. Based around subtle melodies from the keys, guitar and Legrand’s voice (did I mention how absolutely beautiful it is?), some of their songs (‘Heart of Chambers’, ‘Astronaut’) reach the kind of emotional heights that classic torch songs do – except here the emotions aren’t faded and cloying, and especially live, the paradoxical yet captivating casual intensity of Legrand’s performance really brings it home. Set highlights included ‘Gila’, the great ‘Master of None’, a new song that featured Scally playing a tiny Casiotone, and the encore number, ‘Apple Orchard’.

It’s an odd experience seeing a band whose album you have been listening mostly in those waking dream moments before you fall asleep. There is something surreal about hearing those songs that have existed mainly in that twilight world in a bright room, full of people. I didn’t know whether to grab a beanbag and sleep at the front of the stage or just swoon, beaming like a madman. I chose the latter, because like that sweet cardigan you’ve scored at a second-hand store, Beach House’s music invokes a feeling of comfort and warmth. Awww.


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