Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Beach House's "Forever Still"

Concert films are a funny thing. I'd always choose seeing a live band over not seeing a live band, and in some instances - well, many instances - they actually work in my favour seeing as quite literally I wasn't around (alive) for so many of the best live shows and most historically significant music events. But, today in a city like Toronto, chances are I'll be presented with more opportunities than I can count to actually go and see most contemporary or classic artists for myself - meaning there's rarely a need for me to lust over packaged concert footage from the confines of my living room.

Except this morning. Except when one of my generation's most mystical rock bands took a handful of their latest album's tunes and performed them alongside a Texas midnight and sunrise on deserted, dusty plains for  27 brilliant minutes. In collaboration with Pitchfork - a journalistic source I tend to dismiss, but an online broadcast platform that sometimes surprises me - indie dream rockers Beach House staged performances from their acclaimed album Bloom on a vast Southern landscape over the course of three nights. The songs, already intoxicating lullabies that haunt and sparkle by way of Victoria Legrand's husky croon and Alex Scully's gleaming chords, are perfect representations of the cinematically breathtaking backdrop throughout the 27-minute video; shots of a caped Legrand and her band mates perched on a cliff at dawn, driving down a stormy, lightning-painted highway and swinging into "The Hours" in the middle of the night, as mere silhouettes blackened in front of an army of parked cars and their headlights.

With an elongated, countryside Blogotheque feel, Legrand attributes the unusual filming locations and concept to inspiration from Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii, when the famed prog-rockers performed audience-less from within the ancient Roman amphitheatre. The desolate, spooky tone of Texas' dark-skied setting paired with Bloom's free flowing, melodic anthems - as well as the minimal amount of footage - achieves the exact "concert" film endurance that some of the greatest have. On Forever Still, Victoria Legrand said:

Before releasing Bloom, we decided that we would only participate in “promotional” activities that we could control artistically and give substantial energy. We had previously been involved in too many live sessions, radio tapings, photo shoots, etc., where the outcome was far below our personal artistic standards. We also felt a need to distance ourselves from the “content” culture of the internet that rewards quantity over quality and shock over nuance.

...We wanted to perform in a non-typical setting without losing the spirit of our music. We felt the songs would resonate in a more majestic and spiritual landscap

On Forever Still, I'd say the final full-bodied performance of "Irene" and its repeated howl summarizes the whole feature perfectly: it's a strange paradise.

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