Brooklyn duo, Beacon, have shared an advance stream of their sophomore LP, Escapements, ahead of its release later this week. It will come out on American indie label Ghostly International, who are known for putting out records from the likes of Ann Arbor producer Matthew Dear, San Francisco-based artist Tycho, and more.
Escapements will be Beacon's second album on the label, and it finds Thomas Mullarney and Jacob Gossett preserving the delicately lustered production value that we came to love in their previous work, while giving it a new dimension by moving in a more dancefloor-specific direction. From the cosmic synth-styled arpeggios of opener "IM U," to the pensive yet sultry shuffle of "Preserve," it's a thoughtfully composed and emotionally evocative album, staying true to the duo's self-described mission to "explore the dark side of sweet melody."
THUMP caught up with Beacon to talk more about the record, and also to get them to explain what exactly are "escapements". You can listen to the entire LP below, ahead of its release on February 5.
THUMP: What were the recording sessions for this record like? How would you characterize your dynamic as collaborators?
Jacob: We spent about 9 months working on this record. After a good amount of time on the road, we really wanted to immerse ourselves in the writing process again. There were lots of late nights and many iterations of these songs. It felt a bit like emptying the tank.
We have a long history of collaboration, some of which pre-dates Beacon. It's been nearly ten years of bouncing ideas back and forth, so there is a certain level of fluidity to the project that is a direct result of countless hours collaborating.
Thomas: This album was recorded in 2014-2015 in the home studio. Those sessions were about shutting the world out and working in the same room for 10 hour days and seeing what came out. We'd spend hours working within an 8-bar loop and actually embrace the repetition as a way to pull out unique sounds, layers and harmonies. After adding structure and vocal melodies, we'd finally take everything out of the home setting to mix and track vocals at Gary's Electric.
In the press release it says the record is in many ways about time, specifically as it relates to the idea of entropy. Can you explain that a little more?
Thomas: The idea for using escapements, the mechanisms in a clock to keep time, for the album title came out of the lyrics for the title track. I became interested in the disconnect between the concept of time and the escapement, this fallible device designed to capture it. The idea of this escapement being subject to entropy, slowly decaying, and pulling time out of sync fit into the album's broader themes of codependency.
Jacob: Our records always end up being bracketed by some larger concept. As Escapements began to take its final form, various ideas about time kept coming up. We started to get really interested in the role that time plays in various processes and wanted to explore that further on this record.
The album art is pretty intriguing—can you tell us more about it and how it figures in with the themes explored on the record?
Jacob: The cover art is a piece by artist Caleb Charland. It's one shot, exposed for 8 hours. The lamp is actually powered by vegetation, and is giving off an incremental amount of light. The stars' streaks are a result of the rotation of the earth. There is a certain level of patience and uncertainty to the photo that I find very poetic. He had to surrender himself to the process and trust that those hours waiting would bring him to the place he hoped for. I think that sentiment lends itself very well to recording an album.
Thomas: When Jacob showed me this particular piece years ago, it had this kind of universal gestalt. Time is written into that image. It's an artwork defined by its process, a key theme of this record's production.
What were some things you were influenced by musically when putting Escapements together?
Thomas: Writing had become such a part of my day to day experience during those 9 months, there wasn't a lot of space left for listening. I found myself listening to a lot of vocal pop music in the background, as a kind of palette cleanser and I'd escape the pull of the home studio by experiencing music in a live setting, usually techno shows in walking distance from my place in Greenpoint.
Jacob: When we start writing, we tend to wall ourselves off a bit. It's the best way for us to stay fully engaged in what we're doing. I think the one thing we knew going in was that this record was probably going to display a more frenetic sensibility. We were not going to limit ourselves to genre or expectation. This was something that started with our last EP L1, but I think was more fully realized on this record.
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