Everything these days devolves to prog — and not always very good prog. Where once synths were vastly expensive, difficult to master and hell to maintain they are now in a place beyond ubiquity; every sound you want conjured by the press of a key, your song suddenly washed over with sonics that make it sound more important than it really is. It almost makes you yearn for Yes and ELP — at least they knew they were pretentious dullards using electronic wizardry to elevate the slightest of compositions.
Dream pop and its self-harming kid sister shoe-gazing — both genres dating from the mid-1980s and the likes of the Cocteau Twins — were always going to lend themselves to prog’s grandiosity. Victoria Legrand — niece of the pianist Michel Legrand — and Alex Scally are probably the last two middle-class white folk still living in Baltimore. They comprise Beach House, who have been around since about 2004 and become grander with each recording, leading up to this — a double album that will be released in four separate ‘chapters’, of which this is the first.
It is heavily infested with morose atonal washes of sound, but strip that stuff away and you have a decent dream pop album; plaintive tunes that linger a little in the memory. The stand-out from this ‘chapter’ is ‘Superstar’, a chunk of agreeably chugging pop dressed up beyond its years and sung with the requisite misery by Legrand. It slightly overstays its welcome. The other three songs are similarly languid and pretty. I don’t know that I could take all four ‘chapters’ of this, mind, without wishing to beat them about the head with a dead halibut.