Beach House, Wintercoats
The Tivoli, Brisbane, Friday January 11
Melbourne’s Wintercoats (James Wallace) takes the stage with a violin. Plays. Loops. Plays more. Layers and layers. There are smooth violin lines turned into chords and pizzicato pluckings turned to bass through a pedal; bow and body tapping turned to processed electronic rhythm tracks. And histrionics —the histrionics of looped string instruments masquerading as genius. It’s not bad: he’s quite good to talk over and nice in a pretty-and-epic-just-add-water way that this formula begets. Although it’s a very shallow take on ground that was well and truly explored by the likes of Andrew Bird and Zoe Keating years ago, it still manages to clutch the heartstrings with every soaring high. With more memorable compositions, Wintercoats could go far — he certainly has the support, and this audience is right behind him.
What can you say about Beach House? Anybody mildly familiar with the work of Baltimore’s finest either has already read or can imply the right words to describe their sound; let us treat “treacle” or “molasses” as sufficient, thick and sugar-sweet (“mellow” and “chilled” imply a bit too much surf and weed, dude). The lighting casts the husky-voiced anti-star Victoria LeGrand in silhouette against sunlight, sunrises and sunsets, twilights, sparkling starry nights that come out in Norway and get aptly covered with auroras thereafter. LeGrande’s voice stands out above her shimmering organ tones, supported surprisingly well live by harmonies from guitar/bass pedal/drum machine wizard Alex Scally and touring drummer Dan Franz. In fact, the live drums are a very nice addition to the band, beefing up their distinctive vintage keyboard percussion tracks in a way that supports their sound, adding lush cymbal washes and tom rolls.
They open with Wild and follow with Walk in the Park for a set almost entirely derived from their last two albums – 8 of Bloom’s 10 songs make an appearance, showing off the band’s newfound appreciation for rhythms over textures and melodies, at times reminiscent of a maximalist take on The xx. Slow and pretty, Gila is a treat for the loyal fans, the only cut from 2008’s Devotion to feature tonight. They close with lead single Myth before departing the stage for the obligatory encore break. 10 Mile Stereo builds towards a breathtaking peak, but a shift in the drumming cruelly hollows out the climax — thankfully, album closer Irene doesn’t disappoint, filling the audience and The Tivoli with light and sound.
BRADY CLARKE is a Brisbane-based bebearded bassist, raconteur, absurdist and decanter of yarns, clearly competent at compiling clever linguistic abstractions resplendent in knowledge and ephemera.