Time, they say, is a great healer. But equally, some things last a lifetime. Daniel Johnston said that. Which to believe? Truth is there’s not one of us who knows what strange satellites compel the ebb and flow of memories that can make loved objects seem up close one minute and impossibly remote the next, but rarely has a band seemed better attuned to the transfiguring action of time on memory than with Beach House’s self-titled 2006 debut.
Their music was like waltzing wedding cake models in a music box; the sound of atrophied romance, obscure regrets and flickering confetti set to a shoegaze siren call that brought to mind the likes of Mazzy Star and Slowdive whilst gently asserting a hushed authority all of its own.
Devotion resonates with the same formless essence as its predecessor, but also far exceeds it in both composition and execution. The funereal organ and sparse, chintzy beats remain, but the sound is more fleshed-out and vivid with harpsichord and lushly textured keys, Alex Scally’s slide guitar in particular more languidly expressive than ever, as if tracing the curves of old flames on the brilliant ‘Gila’.
Similarly Victoria Legrand’s voice recalls the haunted strains of the Nicos and Hope Sandovals of the world, but coupled with a shimmering sensuality which helps root Beach House’s abstractions in a sepia, soul-tinged glow. And while on Beach House songs would occasionally fail to go anywhere as if in fear of disturbing the pervasive sense of stillness, Devotion abounds with subtly-wrought standouts, from the elegant bounce of opener ‘Wedding Bell’ to the rapturous poignancy of ‘You Came To Me’ and 'D.A.R.L.I.N.G.''s reverent, tear-stained pop.
‘Heart Of Chambers’ swoops into unusually low registers to create a quietly expansive peak that’s also deeply sexy. And their bittersweet touch turns Daniel Johnston’s profoundly unsettling ‘Some Things Last A Long Time’ into a woozy, consoling anthem that’s almost as forceful as the original.
To say this record elevates the band far above the swollen ranks of shuffling shoegazers currently doing the rounds is putting it mildly - in Devotion, Beach House have created as profound an invocation of the sacred and the sentimental as you’re ever likely to hear.
Again it’s Daniel Johnston’s stark poetry I’m drawn to in summing up, and in particular a lyric omitted from their version of ‘Some Things Last A Long Time’ which could serve very well as their epitaph: "Time comes and goes / all of the while / I still think about you".
Holy music, indeed.
9Alex Denney's Score