While my recent analyses of pop songs have hinged on the idea of musical events being initiated by voice or instruments/production as part of a balanced or asymmetric power dynamic, Beach House’s music appears to be governed by the kind of inescapable but indescribable dream logic that drives some of Lynch’s work. Victoria Legrand’s voice is passive, passionless, she moves through the songs with a frictionless ease, and without any clear motive; however, she is not powerless, buoyed along by a propulsive beat or groove. Her voice interacts with its instrumental surroundings to effect clear structural moments, but there is a somnambulistic quality to both: the songs follow their own internal logic, which appears both perfect and unparsable, resulting in very unpredictable sequences of events that nevertheless feel logical and unavoidable. Metres and pulses are vague, choruses become verses without us noticing, backing vocals enter on unmarked phrases and follow new lines of abstraction into new textural planes that are nevertheless steeped in an intense feeling of déjà vu: ‘It is happening again’.
The album’s opener, ‘Levitation’, is a perfect illustration of the feeling of slow motion that the duo creates: moving both forwards and backwards while remaining locked in place. Melodies and progressions often feel like they’re appearing back-to-front or skipping beats, but every new development appears so smoothly and naturally that it cannot be questioned: it has the internal integrity of dream logic. The result is a feeling of foregone conclusion — of hearing something unravel and knowing that you know how it ends, that you’ve heard it all before, but finding it impossible to actually say what the conclusion will be. Déjà entendu: a song already sung. And this dream logic carries with it all the eroticism — the intense desire for the inevitable consummation — but also the dread that dreams entail. My favourite example of this intangible dread is on ‘10:37’, in which the melodic bass gently menaces the voice, purely through its slight separateness (in production and rhythmic cadence), giving the sense that something is being smothered or repressed: “Where you go/She casts no shadow/Still you know she’s near”.