Beach House - Bloom

Another addition to the duo’s expansive, spirited catalogue of near-perfect records.

Label: Bella Union

Rating: 8

The relationship a band has with their music is bound to differ from the fan’s perception of what they’re given. Take Alex Scally of the Baltimore pair’s recent interview with DIY as an example. To quote; “I don’t understand why people like us”, “All of our big fans have now heard the record in a bad form” when talking of the leaking of ‘Bloom’ and of the album’s title; “it’s not definitive, it’s a reflection.” Most Beach House fans will have accounts on a download forum, means of getting a record weeks before its actual release. On this occasion, they received something half-finished, when the band had something very different in mind; a full, presentable package; like the curtain being pulled down from the central piece of an art exhibition.

This all becomes very interesting when you indulge yourself in the conversations being had with regards to ‘Bloom’. Upon leak, the consensus was half cruel and underwhelmed, half enthusiastic and overjoyed. Today you’ll see almost every fan comparing the record to 2010’s ‘Teen Dream’, with most drawing multiple parallels and seeing it as a sensible, routine extension on from the album which brought Beach House to the foreground of alternative indie appeal. But the band themselves feel entirely detached from the predecessor; in the aforementioned interview they spoke of ‘Teen Dream’ as anything but a “high watermark”, “wannabee pop songs”, even. Obviously it’s a case of different headspaces, different environments, different aims and different results. A lot can happen in two years. But to see their opinion of ‘Bloom’ as so distinct from that of the average fan speaks volumes about how most of these listeners got to hear the record in the first place.

So where exactly does ‘Bloom’ stand? Is it removed from pop leanings or is the band’s perception somewhat short of reality and consensus? Well, it’s certainly a little more subtle in approach. Victoria Legrand and Alex’s exploratory side comes to light once more, recalling the band’s first two albums, rather than their grand, pop-inclined magnum opus of old. Immediacy is downtrodden and replaced with expansion - not ambience, exactly, but definitely a greater level of depth and self-immersion. Hooks aren’t exactly scarce or in short supply: It’s not as if the likes of ‘Wild’ and ‘New Year’ aren’t fit to explode with hair-raising melodies and pop melodrama. However, when part-closer ‘Irene’ chooses to entangle itself in a monotonous guitar line, lasting some 30 seconds, as a wall of atmospherics enjoys its last moments of focus, you begin to forget all about ‘Teen Dream’. Therein lies the difference: Occasional flourishes which escape from self-professed “wannabee pop” (the last album was anything but, for the record), help lift this latest album into its own, vast territory.

Such territory is, as ‘Irene’’s mantra might have you believe, a “strange paradise”. Minimal drum patterns which help commence ‘The Hours’ and ‘Myth’ are in direct contrast to the eventual sky-reaching climaxes inevitably amounting in each respective song’s closing moments. Legrand, whose voice has quite notably come on leaps and bounds from Beach House’s beginnings to the present day, is in her most assured state to date, clamouring at the top of the mix and warranting every inch of your attention. Like every Beach House album, you’re best suited to bask in the abstraction that results from the usual mesh of signatory warm synths and fidgety guitar lines, rather than attempting to latch on to a lyric or a snippet of solitary sonic genius.

Anyone can draw connecting dots from ‘Teen Dream’ to ‘Bloom’. But on this occasion, the same applies when comparing the group’s first record to ‘Devotion’ or their debut. Beach House’s career can be regarded as a beautiful progression, with zero anomalies or missteps, where grand structures collapse into a rush of abstract euphoria. Very little has changed, except from the fact that Beach House have become masters of the art they first emerged with. Relationships will always differ, from one fan to the next, but you can only imagine the pair amassing a whole new group of adoring devotees with yet another layer attached to a truly astonishing, unique and unchallenged sound.