Beat Connection - ‘The Palace Garden’ (Tender Age)

25 Jul 2012

"Most bands don’t have the crisp pop sensibilities of straight up summer tunes like ‘Palace Garden 4am’ – a romantic, heat-hazed saunter through the conventions of afrobeat that also boasts a musically affecting middle eight - nor the purposefully bleak intentions of ‘Ouevreboard’, where mobile phone interference clashes with TV news snippets and apocalyptic drone..."

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The pull of the commercial against the lure of the underground has been a dichotomy that’s troubled bands since the beginning of time – which, for the sake of argument we’ll call about 1960 – with few truly mastering the art of the entirely credible, critically approved crossover. Kraftwerk maybe, Pixies to an extent? Many more are debatable but none necessarily shared Beat Connection’s approach to the issue (if it is an approach at all, not simply a journalistic inference) of separating their output into clearly marked ‘commercial’ and ‘hipster’ sections. They don’t do this literally of course, in fact there’s no actual separation between the first beat and last buzz across the entire record, but it’s a very noticeable stylistic ebb and flow which was perhaps not so marked on their debut ‘Surf Noir’ EP.

This isn’t a criticism, merely an observation – if more bands were as adept as Beat Connection are at shining both sides of the coin then perhaps there’d be a considerable rise in the amount of avant garde music being listened to by pop kids and much more, well,  fun stuff being enjoyed by bedroom miserabilists. It could be lovely.

Unfortunately most bands don’t have the crisp pop sensibilities of straight up summer tunes like ‘Palace Garden 4am’ – a romantic, heat-hazed saunter through the conventions of afrobeat that also boasts a musically affecting middle eight - nor the purposefully bleak intentions of the brilliantly dickishly titled ‘Ouevreboard’, where mobile phone interference clashes with TV news snippets and apocalyptic drone.

There’s plenty more pop to go around here including the fantastically twitchy toy-drum Vampire Weekendisms of ‘Saola’. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more legitimately joyous floor filler this summer and as the stoical tone of singer Tom Eddy notes “oh well, I guess that’s life / You can’t pick out the pieces that you don’t like’ and what sounds suspiciously like a sample from the Farm’s ‘Altogether Now’ (can’t be?) closes her up, you’re left lifted, exhilarated.

Yet often the ambient tracks, brief as they are, stand, in terms of quality, above a great deal of the pop tunes on The Palace Gaden. For instance the tremendous, M83 aping opener ‘New Criteria’ – a warm enticing wash of gleaming keys persistent rhythm appeals far more instantly than a more obvious track like the shoegaze-led banality of balletic bore ‘Think Feel’.

There are a few more duds here such as the Orwellian future lift music of ‘Foreign Embassy’ and the shambles of a Bon Iver/Hot Chip parody/tribute (hard pressed to say what it is) ‘Other Side Of the Sky’ which has in its favour a large tune but in the cons column a big question mark over whether its entirely legit or just a bit of a gag. The generic, gentle alt-dance of ‘Sometimes Wonder’ completes a late in the game lull.

Yet when back to form as on the lovely, lolloping ‘Invisible Cities’ and the album’s true standout moment – the mutated strangeness of ‘Trap House’ a melancholic, clinical scramble of humanity fed through technology’s mincer it feels like a harsh and excellent band.

While each track blends into the next – and these bridging moments are executed supremely well - it’s down to closer ‘En Route’ to fully mind meld the genres, it being a Madonna/Paul Simon powered orb of shimmering loveliness that fades and morphs into something considerably colder and more threatening – a sound collage of dark desperation, ultimately superb.

When considering Beat Connection and their first full length it’s worth considering that battle between the scene and the high street, between the Dalston back room and the superclub, and it’s worth remembering that while they don’t necessarily pull off tricks to please both masters every single time, they certainly do excel and have their finer moments both in light and shade. A compelling record indeed.

Download Beat Connection's RFB Mixtape HERE

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