EP: Beach Lab – A Calm Sense of Surrounding review

By Phil Scarisbrick

Created in shadows of profound loss, Beach Lab’s debut EP manages to take you on a journey that we can all connect with

Your absence is inconspicuous, nobody can tell what I lack.’ 

Sylvia Plath’s words wrestle with the incomprehensible pain that is caused by grief. It is the absence of something the eyes cannot see that defines its steely grip. Conversely, love offers an abundance of what grief snatches away. They are two sides of the same coin, and one cannot exist where the other has or will never. Both have long been explored by artists of all mediums – creating connections through shared experiences and emotions with their audiences. For the binding energy that flows through all of it is empathy – both through good or bad encounters.

Creating music while wrestling with each stage of grief is often an exercise in catharsis. Not only can you use your words to try and rationalise your feelings, but the melodies and soundtracks you make can add the depth that your experiences deserve. This process is something that informed the composition of Beach Lab’s debut EP, A Calm Sense of Surrounding.

Written in the aftermath of bassist, Josh Longman’s paternal loss – as well as the breakdown of singer, Jenna Kyle’s long-term relationship – the EP was a way for them to process and expel the all-encompassing grip that grief had on them. Old Waysbouncy, reverb-heavy guitar line drives the track under Kyle’s protesting vocal as she repeats, ‘I never said it!’ evoking a feeling of confused denial. Never Be’s melody feels instantly recognisable, although it is almost impossible to pinpoint exactly where from. Like the start of a new relationship with someone you feel like you’ve known your whole life, the song itself chronicles the aftermath of the end of a break up, and the desire to move on.

Closing out the record, Scars feels like the bright conclusion where the sun rises on another day and you can be thankful to be alive. Under this veneer though is the acceptance that grief’s emotional GBH will always leave its mark on you, but moving on despite that is the only rational response after a tumultuous ride though the various stages of the journey. ‘I don’t want to hurt anymore,’ proclaims Kyle on a country-tinged vocal that is telling you exactly how much pain she’s still feeling, but still pushes on anyway.

It is very easy when discussing these subjects to appear self-involved. That is because it can consume you to the point where you don’t have the capacity to be anything else. On A Calm Sense of Surrounding, Beach Lab manage to balance this with more broad statements about loss that makes it impossible not to connect with what Kyle is singing. The music adds a dense range of hues to take you on this journey. Most of all though, that feeling of empathy is there in abundance. 

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