Aftermath: Beach House, Real Or Imagined, A Breathtaking Walter's Show

Aftermath is not quite sure what we can possibly add to a band already self-aware enough to put the word "dream" in its album title. We can tell you this, though: We put on Beach House's Teen Dream, the Baltimore duo's second LP for Sub Pop, shortly before leaving work Friday afternoon, and the wispy tendrils of melody wafting out of the speakers of our modest CD player did nothing whatsoever to prepare us for what we got at Walter's on Washington a few short hours later. Beach House, bumped up to a trio on the road, went on shortly before we got to the sold-out club. When we walked in, the lights were already down and Walter's was illuminated like the crystal cave of Mary Stewart's Arthurian trilogy, colors reflecting and refracting off the band's geometric stage props and tinsel strung the length of the room. Our eyes never did quite adjust, but the visuals did make a perfect port of entry to Beach House's underground kingdom of womblike keyboards and trip-hoppy rhythms. Part of Aftermath's mind is still trapped down there somewhere, attempting to make sense of what we saw and heard, but we suspect it may be futile. Beach House created such a hermetically sealed environment, woven out of Victoria Legrand's waifish vocals and gauzy keyboards, with Alex Scally's guitar shimmering and shining brighter than those glittering decorations, melodies purer than the mineral veins those cardboard crystals resembled, that any attempt to describe it after the fact couldn't possibly do it justice. Reference points that flitted through Aftermath's mind during that spellbound hour were the usual narcotic-pop suspects: Velvet Underground, Cowboy Junkies, Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star. Beach House had hints of all of them, but only hints, pristine pop submerged in the stuff dreams are made of - whatever that is - and propelled at a clip that never hurried but still made it over much too soon. But not before we had visions of Beach House returning on a far bigger stage, wondering how the atmospheric beauty of what we were witnessing would hold up at, say, the Austin City Limits stage. We're sure the show happened, because the purple wristband from Walter's was there on our kitchen table Saturday morning, right where we took it off. But even now, a couple of days after the fact, those enchanted visuals and beguiling melodies only seem truly real whenever we close our eyes and venture deep into subconscious territory. We closed our eyes a lot this weekend.

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