"Is everybody feeling romantic?" Beach House guitarist Alex Scally softly asked the audience midway through the band's performance at the Granada Tuesday night.
It was hard not to feel a little bit romantic watching Beach House perform, especially with lighting cues that cast the band members in passionate reds, purples, and blues amid swirling vortices of pumped-in fog. Often there were little to no lights at all.
The band was definitely reaching for a specific kind of mood. It's a mood that the Baltimore duo perfected musically over the course of three albums: a mood that is strikingly particular and yet ineffable. Romance? Perhaps. But rousing beneath their music is something more electric, diffuse and emotional. I want to say their music is timeless; but, it is probably more correct to say that it is lost in time. The mood created by Beach House's slow drifting baroque pop feels like a hazy memory or déjà vu. Leaving the Granada after their set, I felt ionized.
Their latest album, the critically acclaimed Teen Dream, brings the band's slow, mellifluous music to sweeping new heights. Beach House played much of Teen Dream during the performance, as well as some older favorites, such as "Master of None" from its 2006 self-titled debut.
There is difficulty in translating music as hazily textured as Beach House's to the live stage, but those who discount the band as headphone music are missing out on brilliant performances. Take "Master of None": recorded, the song sounds brittle and spooked. Live, however, it opens with a wash of shoegaze-y dissonance before vaulting into its sprinkly synth-laden body.
This was also true of "10 Mile Stereo," a choice cut from Teen Dream which bloomed wide as a result of Alex Scally's soaring, majestic guitar work. Singer Victoria Legrand's smoky voice hit the walls, so to speak, in all its richness and sultriness. (And speaking of sultry, Legrand's slow seductive dances put an overt sexual tone over the whole performance, perfectly complimenting the band's atmosphere of romance and mystery.)
Beach House is marked as band of surprising contradictions. The duo, accompanied by a touring drummer, can make sweeping ornate music stadium ready; yet, its basic sound is much more intimate and ethereal in nature. This is not the kind of music that makes people bang their heads. This is the kind of music that makes people sway and swoon, sleepily entranced by Legrand's deep come-hither vocals, the band's hovering synths, and lilting slide guitar.
(And no, I don't what the fuck was up with those tinsel-covered rotating diamonds.)
An easy mistake might be made by calling opener Bachelorette "Beach House-lite," though both share the same penchant for creating intimate songs out of ethereal vocals and electric keyboards. Similarities aside, the one thing the one-woman band had over Beach House was tempo; the music made by New Zealander Annabel Alpers was downright danceable at times, often full of 80's synth lazer loops. Though I'm naturally suspicious of anybody armed with loops and a laptop, Bachelorette's performance was a delightful surprise, with vocals reminiscent of Stereolab's Lætitia Sadier and early Björk. Fighting a cold, Alpers stopped midtrack to soothe her aching throat by drinking from a Dixie-cup full of Jager. A true trooper.