Tag: Single Review: Can't Turn Back

Over the course of this site’s 12 year history, I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering New York-based electronic music duo and JOVM mainstays Beacon. Their third album, 2018’s Gravity Pairs saw the duo — Thomas Mullarney III (vocals) and Jacob Gossett (production, keys, synths) — radically changing their creative process and writing material that was a sonic left turn from their previously released work.

Mullarney III and Gussett embarked on open-ended writing sessions, in which they adopted a more linear songwriting style instead of the loop and texture-driven method they had developed and honed during the creation of their first two albums. The initial demos they wrote were built around piano chords and guitar phrases paired with vocal melodies, which they then edited into a number of different iterations. Doing so allowed the duo to look at each individual version from a multitude of angles and directions.

As they continued through Gravity Pairs‘ creative process, they expanded upon some songs and pared others back. Much like the bending of light through a prism, the abstract, patient and deeply painterly process eventually turned the material they had been working on into a space in which wildly different colors, tones and textures — in the album’s case, minimalist ballads, elaborate pop spirituals and driving dance tunes — can coexist simultaneously and at different speeds. 

Interestingly, with each iteration they created, the JOVM mainstays quickly discovered that they could easily expand upon how they presented Gravity Pairs‘ material in a live setting: They could play the album’s material in a straightforward fashion — or they could play that material in a very different fashion that added or subtracted color and shading, depending on the circumstances, their moods and their desires. 

While Gravity Pairs found Beacon boldly pushing their sound and approach in adventurous, new directions, the material remained imbued with the vulnerability and yearning that they’ve long been known for. 

A couple of years have passed since the release of Gravity Pairs, but the JOVM mainstays have been busy: Back in 2019, they opened for acclaimed Aussie electro pop artist Nick Murphy during his North American tour, which included a stop at Brooklyn Steel. The duo shared a series of stripped down, live studio sessions — and they released a remix album, which featured remixes and edits by ElkkaHelios, and CRi. 

2020 saw the release, of a meditative, piano-led take on the Pixies‘ “Wave of Mutilation” inspired by the slower tempo and phrasing of the UK Surf B-side, which showcased the song’s mutability. Just before the pandemic struck, the members of Beacon embarked on a headlining European tour.

Beacon capped off 2020 with the release of “Feel Something,” which saw Mullarney III and Gussett continuing to prioritize the creative process behind Gravity Pairs while painting a surrealistic and disturbing vision of desire, longing and control that feels like a lived-in perspective of a codependent and dysfunctional relationship — with a person or a situation. 

Yesterday, the JOVM mainstays announced that their highly-anticipated fourth album Along the Lethe will be released on September 9, 2022 through their own imprint, Apparent Movement. The pandemic forced the duo to change their creative approach again but reportedly, the end result is a gorgeous and brooding album meant to make the listener stop and reflect.

Now, as you might recall, last month, I wrote about “Until Next Time,” the first bit of new material from the duo in over two years. The single revealed a fresh, new aesthetic rooted in contrasts: Rumbling electronic feedback and noise gives way to a swirling and twinkling piano-led melody paired with Mullarney’s achingly delicate falsetto, trembling metronomic beats and swirling static, which rises and crashes into Mullarney’s vocals. 

“Until Next Time” is the start of a new chapter for the dup with more music to be released throughout the year. “It really captures some key dynamics of our new work,” Beacon’s Gussett reveals. “Shifts between rich, delicate piano and intense electronic noise are defining characteristics of this genre-bending, soft-loud direction.”

To celebrate the album announcement and to build up buzz for the new album, the JOVM mainstays have shared two new singles from the forthcoming album:

“Can’t Turn Back,” a stunning and seemingly effortless mesh of electronic music genres, timbres and moods centered around UK garage-like rhythms, twinkling synth arpeggios, skittering beats and atmospheric pads while Mullarney III sings of losing himself “in the constant dark” with achingly delicate vocals. As part of an album largely written during pandemic-related quarantines, the specter of hopelessness, uncertainty and struggle looms large — and yet, the song attempts to keep the existential doom at bay, while looking upward.

“Ostrich” is a mesmerizing piano-driven song featuring contributions from multi-instrumentalist Colin Stetson, who contributes fluttering and mournful horns and woodwinds into the song’s gently swelling electronic noise. Inspired by a tuning technique used by The Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed and John Cale, “Ostrich” required all strings of every stringed instrument to be tuned to the same note. And with that foundation, Gossett and Mullarney III improvised on the synths and instruments in their studio, which gives the song a hypnotic and dreamy atmosphere.

“Colin delivered his performance a day before Christmas Eve in 2021,” Thomas Mullarney III explains, “and with it being the first demo written for the record in late 2019, ‘Ostrich’ is both the oldest song on the record and the last to be finished.” Stetson adds “What a joy to spin and whirl and call out into the ether with these lovely Beacon folks. Many thanks for having me on.”

Beacon will be embarking on their first tour in two years this fall, and the tour starts off with a September 10, 2022 stop at Public Records. The rest of the tour dates are below.  

2022 WORLD TOUR DATES

Sep 10th – Brooklyn, NY @ Public Records

Sep 13th – Boston, MA @ Middle East

Sep 14th – Atlanta, GA @ Aisle 5

Sep 25 – Chicago IL @ Schubas

Oct 6 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz 

Oct 15 – Portland, OR @ Holocene

Oct 23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room

Nov 15 – Haarlem, Netherlands @ Patronaat

Nov 17 – Budapest, Hungary @ Turbina

Nov 18 – Glasgow, UK @ The Hug &w Pint

Nov 19 – Manchester, UK @ YES

Nov 20 – London, UK, @ Nells