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Beach House - Beach House

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Artist: Beach House

Album: Beach House

Label: Carpark

Review date: Oct. 5, 2006

Beach House's self-titled debut is a dream of an album. A blurry pageant of uncanny resemblances gently bob along its watery surface: the blissed-out dot-matrix country of the Magnetic Fields' The Charm of the Highway Strip, Suicide's early "burn-out amps" and tinny primitivism, 4AD astral spume, even the recent distorted opulence of Broadcast's Tender Buttons. All slosh along the flux of dusty Casiotones, rhythm-box presets, drizzling guitar and Victoria Legrand's reverb-gauzed voice. But Legrand and partner Alex Cally have more to offer with this brief long-player than novel shapes etched with memory's residue. Beach House is not a work of appropriation or even simulation but majestic fabrication. Unintentionally it recalls David Markson's novel Wittgenstein's Mistress, which is entirely set on a waterfront property that serves as a macrocosm of the narrator's febrile mind. Markson's beach house, like that of Legrand and Cally, becomes an intertextual space where language's indexical slippage is explored as signs are subtly dislodged from their frozen coordinates.

Each of Beach House's nine tracks crawls to a slurred metronome which is so slow and coagulated with hiss as to defy monotony. Thud becomes thrum and musty layers of droning texture are slathered on to maintain the gossamery drift. A purring carpet of treble is repeatedly swept on opener "Saltwater," as diluted organ timbres accompany Legrand's sad-eyed , FX-clung lead. A tambourine is lazily rattled on "Tokyo Witch," one of the few startlingly "live" instruments along with a silvery slide guitar that skims the murmuring "Apple Orchard" in this pre-pixel soundscape of analog engines. Automaton waltzes awash in cold fuzz round out the disc, "House on the Hill" perhaps the most striking for it jettisons looped beats for faint metallic clangs. After the twinkling elegance of closer "Hearts & Lungs," minutes of silence reveal a short 'secret' track: A piano flickers in a mist that borders the red as Legrand mouths indeterminately. Truly formless, this ethereal tail emphasizes that Beach House is actually pop music, sleepwalking through a scrawled mass of electric palimpsests.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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