You can definitely make sense of the “space grunge” tag when listening to Beach‘s debut EP, Space. The Dublin foursome have a sound indebted to the best of 1991 but filtered through a sort of chillwave sleepiness. Released by iH! Audio and produced by Ben Bix of Meltybrains? infamy, Space keeps one at arm’s length. The production acts as a sedative, dulling the impact of Dave Barrett’s wounded croon and leaving the vast array of tones and styles stemming from Alex Conway’s guitar to fill the void. Even when proceedings come to an arresting crescendo, such as on ‘Skies’ and ‘Sea’, a foggy distance is held and catharsis is left tantilisingly within reach without truly being seized.
That is not to say Space is unsatisfying but rather than a thematic sense of loss is prioritised ahead of simple aural fulfillment. The title refers both to the space above is and the space that is left empty, gnawing at us from within as we muddle through life in a haze of uncertainty.
Despite ‘Intro’s closing riff piercing through the ether, the blissful chaos of ‘Skies’ – and of Space in general – goes partly unheard, like you’re listening to it through a wall. Barrett yearns for fulfillment amidst it all: “I want my love / I want these skies to open up”. Completeness is the aim, failing that, any sort of feeling will do.
‘Sea’ is the EP’s centrepiece, doffing its cap to Foals’ ‘Spanish Sahara’ and allowing Barrett to pour his heart out without competition for the listener’s ear. His desperate cries are quite heart-breaking. “You make me feel like I’m hurt-free … just let me show you, just let me show” – it’s a sentiment that reverberates in the mind but Barrett’s knowingly defeated tone let’s one know his attempts are in vain. He’s joined towards the song’s end by Bernard Kavanagh’s ascendant bass line and guitar arpeggios that glitter through the fog. It’s beautiful to hear and reassuring to know that consolation can be found in united noise.
The closing title track is an emotional comedown. Rumbling echoes and muffled vocals create the feeling of losing consciousness, and it very much feels like a retreat into numbness; the sound of a dead transmission only adds to the sense of woozy listlessness. Quite a pessimistic note to end on but thematically pure all the same. After all, as Barrett sings on ‘Sea’, “When I’m stoned, I feel this empty hole” – it’s not going away, but neither are Beach.