Friday, January 15, 2010

The sun and shadows of Beaches

You would expect that, living by the beach, I would have taken much earlier notice of an album called Beaches by a band called Beaches – and a local (well, Melbourne, anyway) band at that. Actually, I did buy their album sometime ago but, somehow or another, put it aside and I have only just now gotten around to sitting down and giving it a serious listen.

I’m still pretty bad at working at genres, and Beaches really defies traditional placement anyway – but if I had to sum it up in one word, albeit a double barrelled and not terribly good one, I’d call it “pop-drone”. Of course, you could hardly get two genres more disparate than pop and drone, but there is something about the way Beaches manage to build catchy, hooky phrases into a thickly woven, repetitively patterned fabric of sound. It’s like little brightly coloured bricks of sound have been copied, over and over, layered on top of each other, to erect wonderful walls which, once built, present you not with neat little songs about this or that, but with dense landscapes, seascapes and skyscapes.

Beaches begins with some deceptively light and breezy tracks – tricking you into thinking that perhaps this is going to be a languid, lazy day lying in the sun. But by time you get to ‘The Rip’, with its tribal beats, its tonality dragging you down into dark minor key depths, where strange creatures howl, you realise that this journey is not all sunshine and light.

The sense of mystery and strangeness intensifies with ‘Horizon’ and ‘Eternal Sphere’, dreamlike and dark, until the fog and mist dissipates with ‘Ramblin’’ and you feel you are surrounded once more by light and yet a light that, somehow, now seems to be broken by shadows, or at least by the memory of them.

Beaches is full of these changing pictures and colours, not so much within tracks as between them. But what happens within the track is always every bit as dramatic as what happens between them – tunes that seem to emerge out of the thinnest thread of an idea, growing organically, dynamically, as the five women who make up this band feed, and feed off, one another’s musicianship, creating, almost telepathically, it seems, a community of sound through powerful electric guitars; solid, sometimes aggressive, sometimes secure, drums; and occasional vocals that blend into, rather than pit themselves against, the instruments.

Beaches are not just places where you go for summer holidays. They are places where you can see things: big things, bad things, sunny things, scary things, safe things, strange things. And Beaches lets you immerse yourself in every one of these. It lets you splash and giggle in the shallows; and it lets you drown and go to pieces in the depths; but i always somehow seems to bring you back to bask in the sun.

1 comment:

  1. By sheer chance, your encounter with 'Beaches' coincided with my search for 'Reef'. (No, really!) Reef is/was a British band that I know because they recorded the signature tune of a UK TV series, 'Red Cap'. I think that they are/were part of 'Britpop', some of which (including this track) is really exciting, dynamic music.

    However, a search of i-Tunes reveals only two 'Reef' tracks, neither of which is that signature tune.

    So again, if any follower of your blog can tell me anything more, I'd be grateful.