Beach House – review

Village Underground, London

The early 1990s shoegaze scene is not widely regarded as British music's finest moment. Peopled by bands such as Lush and Slowdive – who crafted sumptuous, serene art-rock that was heavy on non-specific introspection and FX pedals – it was to prove a mere footnote to the era of acid house and Britpop.

Twenty years on, the Baltimore duo Beach House are doing a sterling job of rehabilitating that much-maligned scene's ethos. Their 2010 breakthrough album, Teen Dream, and its followup, Bloom, are immaculate exercises in exquisite dream-pop that remind you why Shoegaze Mark I had critics gushing about "cathedrals of sound".

It is not easy to transfer such multi-layered opulence to the stage, where singer Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally inevitably sacrifice some production gloss for a sharper, edgier sound. The pair are silhouettes at the back of the stage for the spectral opening song, Wild, Legrand hunching over her keyboard and under her fringe as she huskily sings: "Your past is what will catch you."

Shorn of their studio shimmer, their material can seem distinctly one-paced. Legrand sounds as imperious and dead-eyed as Lana Del Rey as she recites the deliciously languid Norway and Other People, while the new track Lazuli serves as a reminder that the vast majority of the first wave of shoegazers took their cues from the Cocteau Twins.

Beach House exit with the new album's opener, Myth, with Legrand sighing "Drifting in and out", and it's an accurate summary of your reaction to this diverting but rarely compelling gig. That's the irony of Beach House: their music may strive for depth, but it's so easy to let it wash over you.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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