album review: beaches, she beats
Melbourne’s dreamy psych-jam specialists, Beaches, have finally released their second full-length album, She Beats, and it’s a sneaky little gem.
If you’re not familiar with them, Beaches is a band of five women who have a penchant for making swirling, droney music with overdriven guitars and insistent bass lines. On She Beats, the band refines the sound of their self-titled debut, reigning in its looseness and brashness to provide a record that is full and lush. The vocals, which are shared between the group’s members, are mixed way back in the tracks, under layers of distorted rhythm guitar and space-age, wah-wah solos, providing a clear link to the shoe-gazing tendencies of acts like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. Rather than providing clear lyrical content, the vocals comprise an additional aspect of the songs’ composition, providing an extra layer of tone, expression and harmony to the music.
Despite the clear influences of shoe gaze, She Beats achieves a much more immediate and engaging feel, largely due to the drum work of Karla Way, which makes heavy use of simple, tight, and persistent rhythms that push the songs forward. This sense of movement is particularly important on a record that at times comes across like an extended (albeit pleasingly hypnotic) psychedelic jam session – there are a couple of tracks that seem to meander a little too far and fail to provide ample satisfaction.
On the other hand, the highlights are fantastic, particularly the pair of Michael Rother-recorded tracks, Granite Snake and Distance. Rother, a founding member of seminal krautrock outfit, Neu!, became a fan of Beaches in 2009, and his deft touch at the production desk lends the whole affair a strong sense of rhythm and drive. Not so much a collection of radio-friendly songs, She Beats is a sunny, psychedelic, harmonic experience.