Beach House - Bloom (4 stars)

Beach House - Bloom

Fourth album sticks to style favouring atmosphere over structure

(Bella Union)

With 2010’s totally immersive Teen Dream, Baltimore two-piece Beach House – France-born vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally – went from American indie try-hards to one of the most critically-acclaimed bands of the year. In twinkling melodies, cruising mid-tempo drum beats and a prevailing cathedral reverb-swathed gauzy haze of atmosphere – all droning organs and shimmering guitar washes, fit to incite mass dreaminess faster than a vat of chloroform – they found their sound, and they’re agreeably sticking to it on Bloom.

The duo’s fourth album to date finds a band in absolute control of their craft. Sure, it’s formulaic – opener ‘Myth’ starts proceedings as much else of the record continues, with its peeling keys arpeggio, Scally’s effects-embellished fretwork and Legrand’s almost genderless vocals stretching out lazily like Hope Sandoval with a 60-a-day smoking habit. You could practically run these 10 tracks back-to-back with Teen Dream and not spot the joins. But this pair’s effortless capacity for heavenly hooks – the featherlight choral vocal motif of ‘Lazuli’, the janglesome guitar runs in ‘The Hours’ – keeps Bloom always enriching, as one celestial slow-jam melts into another with heart-trembling grace.

It’s the latest fine album from a long lineage of American bands – from Galaxie 500 through to Animal Collective – who trade more so in atmosphere than pop’s traditional currency of verses and choruses. Beach House will need to change things up next time round lest they be accused of getting too settled into a comfort zone, but for now there’s boundless pleasure to be derived from hearing a band dive into a warm ocean of surety in what they do and swimming the backstroke.



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