Beacon Creates a Leaner Electronic Sound on 'Gravity Pairs'
On Beacon's Gravity Pairs, every gentle breath of synth, gliding piano note, and softly tapped pad is expertly cultivated to enrich the song with Thomas Mullarney's voice drawing out the humanity, compassion and empathy.
2 November 2018
Understandably, after years of promotion and touring, Brooklyn-based indie electronic duo, Beacon, knew that they needed to change things up and bring a little more unpredictability into their work for what would become Gravity Pairs. Taking their cues from Walter Russell's unorthodox scientific theories, the band, made up of Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett, decided to adopt a more linear approach with songs written on piano or guitar and with the duo pushing Mullarney's vocal melodies to the fore.
Once the core elements were in place, the band went to town on the demos, attempting to reframe existing ideas and pulling songs in new, unexpected directions. The idea is to see how song ideas could be isolated and reformulated with skeletal ballads being drawn into kinetic dance arrangements and sophisticated pop warped into krautrock influenced R&B. The result is a wonderfully kaleidoscopic album full of sparkling synths, rich organic instrumentation, and subtle percussion.
Soft pads gently steer the slowly swelling synths on opener "Don't Go Looking" providing the perfect, delicate backing for Mullarney's soft, crystalline vocals. "Be My Organ" continues in the same vein with escalating synths and the steady pitter-patter of snare that dance like pockets of dust caught in shafts of early morning light. However, the mood soon shifts, becoming edgier and dancier as the atmosphere clouds over and synth lines appear like the strange and sudden appearance of street lamps in the gloaming. It's a compellingly elusive mix with sounds and notes appearing and disappearing at will.
"Losing My Mind" is a wholly stripped back affair and is a product of their pared-down approach to writing. For the first half, Mullarney has only a twinkling piano to brace his vocals on until subtle strings imbue him with the strength to carry the song home. With a bubbling synth lurking just beneath the surface, "Fields" ups the tempo in thrilling fashion. Driven by a propulsive live drum beat, it builds to a drop that, when it comes, floats rather than plummets as the drums and synths quickly lock into a groove. Mullarney's voice is at its most expressive throughout, as it moves from bouncing hook to comforting, rich lilt.
The sophisticated pop of "On Ice" is all about the subtle changes as a ticking beat mixes with sleek electronics that stretch and blur like distant neon lights. It's the perfect enigmatic backing for Mullarney's inscrutable vocals which swing from glowing warmth to spectral impassivity. On "Marion", the pair adds a hammered dulcimer and Japanese style strings as they stretch their musical muscles. It's another expertly crafted uptempo song that provides a smooth rush of expansive soundscapes and a mark of unhurried simplicity.
"The Road" is a much sparser affair with atmospheric electronics and a swooping synth figure framing Mullarney's vocals until unexpectedly flipping into a grittier club tune cut through with buzzing synths and a four to the floor beat. "Bending Light" highlights the band's ability to blend organic and electronic instrumentation as subdued acoustic guitar slowly merges with hazy electronics and piano.
"Over My Head" is another beautifully layered track as a backward tape loop gives way to a nimble drum beat and a brisk bass line. Album closer "The War You're After" finishes the album on a gliding cloud of misty electronics and vivid, dazzling synths. There's a real sense of purpose in the music, reflected by lines such as "I'm not walking away from this", suggesting a relationship that can still be saved. Fittingly, the album concludes with the sound of a xylophone chiming out the vocal melody. A simple end that highlights the fact that even when shorn of everything but the barest of instrumentation, Beacon can still produce stirring and enduring hooks.
There are no extraneous layers on Gravity Pairs, no sonic elements that outstay their welcome. Every gentle breath of synth, gliding piano note, and softly tapped pad is expertly cultivated to enrich the song with Mullarney's voice drawing out the humanity, compassion and empathy.