Beach House-Forever Still

My rather lengthy comments on this can be found further below. The space here is best reserved for Beach House’s great intro to this piece. Head below for the review.

We had previously been involved in too many live sessions, radio tapings, photo shoots, etc., where the outcome was far below our personal artistic standards. We also felt a need to distance ourselves from the “content” culture of the internet that rewards quantity over quality and shock over nuance.

Forever Still is directly inspired by Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii. We wanted to perform in a non-typical setting without losing the spirit of our music. We felt the songs would resonate in a more majestic and spiritual landscape. The experience was an intense three nights of filming. Everyone involved in production and crew was benevolent in their time and talented in their efforts.

The basic concept is four songs performed from sunset to sunrise. We tried to keep the edits minimal with long takes in order to focus on the energy of the songs, the landscape, and the physicality of live performance. The entire film was shot in or around Tornillo, Texas, where we recorded Bloom. Like Bloom, we hope that Forever Still is experienced as a whole, long form.

Firstly, let’s comment on their introduction. Despite the obvious irony given this is a site built on content, I couldn’t agree more with their comments on the content culture of quantity over quality. It applies at both the artist level they’re at and here at OTU, as we’re often viewed in the bracket of many other (and certainly more popular) music blogs, despite their affinity for aggregation over quality of output. Hence, a huge well done to Beach House for sticking to their principles and doing things in the most artistically self-satisfying manner.

I’ve been on a huge Beach House binge in the last few weeks, and hence this 26-minute performance video couldn’t have been timed any better. Their Bloom album is a wonderful benchmark for the genre as a whole, and this performance of four tracks from the LP works as a fantastic introduction to the band for those uninitiated, and as a great payoff for the fans who’ve been giving their discography plenty of play time.

Anyone who has ever been a fan of dream pop, atmospheric indie, dark alternative or whatever it’s called this week will be completely engrossed in this: if there was ever a perfect visualisaton of the genre or the images its constituent music evokes, this is as close as anyone has come to date. The video chronicles not only the performance of the tracks, but also briefly glimpses into the travels involved with each, clips which help properly timestamp the various transitions required between tracks and add a physical journey to the sonic movement of the music.

The dusk opening of Wild is a synergy of audio and environment of the highest order. The barely-there light and flashes of dark clouds backs the delayed guitars, wailing keyboard notes and light percussion beautifully, with the isolated surroundings enhancing the track’s atmosphere, adding grandeur and giving rise to an almost hopeful loneliness to the audio. It’s captured the essence of the song, and given it a visual boost that seems to amplify its sound, both rather skilfully and paradoxically given the barren surroundings.

The Hours is the first beneficiary of complete darkness, a feature which contrasts nicely with the more lively, piercing sounds of the instrumentation on this track. The performance’s backing of car lights adds a little glamour to the general landscape, whilst the outlining light it creates around the band members accentuates their body language significantly; the otherwise blackened setting enhances their movements and certainly places more emphasis on their physical performance of the song, whether subtle or overt.

A much darker transition follows, leading into the superb Wishes, a track they back with a smokier backdrop and more rounded lighting for a more ‘classic’ music video feel. One of my absolute favourite musical transitions in recent times comes around halfway through this song, as the previously passive guitars move into the forefront with deliciously delayed notes enhancing the wistful, reflective vibe of the track. That instrumentation is visualised skilfully with the members becoming more silhouetted, alongside a rare move away from the band’s performance to show various animals roaming the nearby landscape, before the band surprisingly sprints away into the blackness.

We return to close with Irene, a track with a steady opening that suits its sunrise setting extremely well. The track’s upward transition via the keyboard notes is visually represented rather beautifully, as the skyline begins to progressively brighten and open up, a visual effect which gradually drives this section of the video into the closing notes, whereby the sun fully rises on their climactic finish and once again reveals the details of the once-completely darkened landscape surrounding them.

Whilst I’ve only really touched on the layers of messaging in this, it’s more a clip to enjoy for the sheer brilliance of the audio’s suitability for its host environment. The range of skies and surroundings is a near-perfect visual accompaniment to their brand of ethereal, atmospheric and lusciously deep alternative music, and regardless of its length this is one you’ll allow yourself to watch again and again. It’s an increasingly rare pleasure when a music video flawlessly matches the mental image you’d created for the song, and given it’s done four times over here, I’ll be indulging in this for some time to come. If you enjoyed this, be sure to grab the album now.

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