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Gold Beach

Habibti

(self-released; US: 6 Sep 2011; UK: import)

Michael Winningham and Tony Daugherty, the duo behind Gold Beach, have known each other just about forever, and they started writing music together when they were 14. That long-standing relationship comes across on the first Gold Beach release, Habibti. The album, written mostly in the studio, is an intricately layered, yet delicate affair, the kind of wandering yet cohesive sound that could only come from players who know enough to give each other space. The drifting lilt of “I’m Not Yours”, the tack-piano shuffle of “Gold Beach”, and the fuzzy shimmer of closer “Diving Bell” create expansive pop atmospheres that feel carefully built and well executed. Often, though, that atmosphere gets the focus and the songs themselves take a back seat. Tracks like “Until You” and “Hands of Ether” rest on space, on the heavily treated echo of vocals, the gaps created by threadbare percussion. These songs feel like they’re building to something—a quiet in search of its counterpart loud—that never quite comes. In the end, the spacious feeling of these songs wears itself out, and, two-thirds of the way through many of them, it becomes a drawback. The best songs on Habibti shift at the right moment, but around those there are others that announce a vibe on the first note and never change paths, so while we may appreciate the tones, we are rarely surprised by any turns.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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