Beacon Creates a Leaner Electronic Sound on 'Gravity Pairs'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

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.

Gravity Pairs


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.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.