by Philip Moss
On their eighth album, Beach House use the sprawl to their advantage – and hone in even closer to what makes them so special
The double vinyl. To music fans, it can be a beautiful thing – who doesn’t love a gatefold sleeve? – but it can also be one that induces anger. Is there anything much more frustrating than having to turn a record over for eight minutes of music that could so easily have fit onto the previous side?
This, Beach House’s eighth record, comes at 18 songs long with a run time of over an hour and twenty minutes – almost double everything, bar Bloom, that they have previously released. And prior to its physical version, was released as a series of four 20-ish minute chapters.
The opening four songs – led by the title track, Once Twice Melody, are immediate and bright. It’s everything you would expect from a band that – for the last ten years – have distilled, rather than reinvented, what makes them brilliant, record by record. On the pair’s first self produced LP, Superstar and Pink Funeral bear a resemblance to Trevor Horn’s work with the Pet Shop Boys – as layered synths are used to create tempo, rather than just ambience or mood. There’s also still space for the shoe gaze guitars that took hold of Depression Cherry, and were honed on even further by producer, Sonic Boom, on 7.
Given the ‘everything now’ culture that has emerged not just in music, but across all art formats and society as a whole in recent years, the decision not to reduce Once Twice Melody down to its ‘best’, or most immediate parts, would have been to have missed the point – the beauty is in its sprawl. This is exemplified by the longest song on the record: the seven minute Over and Over, which closes side two. It is more sci-fi than anything Beach House have released before; its chorus – ‘When all the lights go down / One by one, they open / Forever and ever’ – backed by stardust strings and lunar soundscapes feels grander; but there is also drawn out sections of space between the verse, chorus structure that creates a universe all of its own for Legrand’s Cate Le Bon-evoking melody to inhabit.
Once Twice Melody justifies itself as yet another very special collection from the Baltimore duo, and one that absolutely is deserving of the double vinyl format. Bravo, indeed, Beach House – Once Twice Melody is a success on both fronts!
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