Beach House, Heaven, London

 

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The Independent Culture

Though they are leaders of a loose confederation of new dream pop bands, Beach House make for strange scene figureheads as they shamble on stage, hidden behind ragged fringes and awkward banter. Such simple failings in stage presence are forgotten, however, within about 30 seconds of the first song of a majestic set.

Beach House present a mutant strain of shoegaze – slow, mannered chords never break much past a canter and washes of languid distortion are wound tightly round Victoria Legrand's solemn, smoky vocals and underpinned by a heartbeat pound of kick drums. The sound is thick with stately grandeur and lingering, bent notes, finding the halfway point between Mazzy Star and Cocteau Twins and losing little in the comparison.

Much of the set is taken from their most recent album, Teen Dream. Released this year to critical acclaim, it is beautiful, a lush and rapturous slow-burner. It is also an album, on tonight's evidence, that was made to be played live.

There is so much more to Beach House when they are seen live. Their songs gain a palpability they do not have on record, sounding fuller and more expansive. That is not to say, of course, that the albums are not good – it's just that the songs take on a new power on stage, especially in the close confines of tonight's venue, Heaven. True, you can't make out a word Legrand is saying, through all the extra reverb and fuzz. That's fine, though, because her voice also takes on a lot of extra power, soaring over the audience in a way I had not believed possible.

It is Legrand's swooning vocal performance that makes the show what it is. She sings with more warmth and richness than most of her peers and changes the whole dynamic of the music. Where most shoegazers sing with sang froid, the supple leather of Legrand's voice humanises the coldness of the music, making for a gorgeous counterpoint.

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