by Aaron Shaul
With so many indie bands delving deep into dub's back pages for tropes to plunder in the name of experimentalism, it's great that a band can pull out reverb less for abstract reasons and more because it's the simplest and most effective way to evoke water. Soaked in this world of echo, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally of Beach House's compositions on their sophomore album sound more than ever like lost documents of '70s soft rock — washed up on the shores of Southern California and both waterlogged and timeless. It's like Carly Simon slowed down to half speed and cut with equally strong doses of the Velvet Underground and Jefferson Airplane's darker moments; all of it stripped of everything but the sparest rhythms and melodies.
Rarely does the sound here lift higher than the simple complements of keyboard, guitar, voice and drum machine flourishes. The duo's constant blurring of the edges gives buoyancy to the skeletal frameworks and familiar chord progressions of songs like "Astronaut" and "Gila." When the duo finally dries off to cover Daniel Johnston and Jad Fair's "Some Things Last a Long Time," it's through a dripping, arrhythmic veil of percussion and an all-encompassing silence that turns every tambourine hit into stark thunder. When the end of Devotion arrives, it's clear that the group's simplicity isn't wrought from a lack of fidelity on the recordings, but through an economy in their solid songwriting and an owning of reverb that's so thorough it washes away most of the clutter of today's overproduced hipster scene.
Aaron Shaul writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.