With Bloom, Beach House continue their slow languid march toward hushed dream pop domination. Crafting a career of slow adjustment, adding to their sound by small degrees, each step demonstrates their dexterity with beauty. They never let you forget that their entire sound is anchored in splendour. At their most minimal and stripped back, they still stun, showing that despite adding layers with each album, everything is still underpinned with delicacy.
As such Bloom is not so different from any other Beach House album. Opening track Myth is all gently pounding rhythms juxtaposed with Victoria Legrand’s breathy and deep rolling velvet vocals. She sounds equal parts defiant, and resigned. Cloud-like and ethereal guitar paired with hazy organ swirls – Lagrand’s vocals passionate, drawn, longing and sadly defiant. The drums are once again prominent, filling the gaps between lyrics that are delivered sparingly, the crisp rhythmic production contrasts well with at times almost impressionistic lyrics, providing an anchor amongst the drift.
Wild might be the nearest they get to ‘traditional’ pop (except at half speed) an almost anthemic mood is further lifted by fire alarm squall guitars. Lazuli and Troublemaker both nudge nearer to ‘mainstream,’ verging on hooky – rather than hypnotising – adding weight to their inimitable brand of dream gaze. Lazuli approaches epicness, with vocals that verge on massed chants. Soaring voices contrast with a descending guitar line as both reach their peak it seems to trigger the emphatic blast the ends the track.
Tracks are built around repeated looping cycles, and Bloom exhibits a hypnagogic mantra-like feel of wheels within wheels. If that sounds soporific, it isn’t. There are enough gear changes – up and down – to prevent the listener falling into a slumber. The Hours and New Year might be two of the liveliest tracks these guys have produced. Energetic and rousing, Legrand’s vocals are powerful, and crisp rather than hushed and intoxicating, driven on and higher by buzzing guitars in the former and rolling bass in the latter. As if to prove that they are still the sparse, minimal band of their debut On the Sea is a stripped back piano waltz, of sorts. That Irene moves from an energetic carnival spin, before finishing with an extended coda seems somehow almost perverse, as if Beach House have flexed their muscles as much as they ever will, before bringing a curtain down on the ‘histrionics.’
Bloom is lovely, and they have progressed (a little bit), but they may be painting themselves in to a corner. A policy of incremental embellishment leaves us wondering where next for Beach House? Do they entirely overhaul themselves – risk alienating their fans, de-railing all their good work? Or continue along this path of gentle metamorphosis. The real risk here is that at this sedate pace people may wander off, searching for something a little more thrilling. They can’t quite be accused of diminishing returns, but Beach House they need to think about how to maintain the momentum.