you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

15 February 2014

Album Review: Be Forest || Earthbeat (2014). Review by Ellie Sleeper.

WTSH Album Review:
Be Forest || Earthbeat
(We Were Never Being Boring, 2014)
Review by Ellie Sleeper

Be Forest have transformed. It should be apparent from the addition of a new member on keyboards and the new artistic directions they’ve been taking lately, but neither of these factors alone truly encapsulate the somewhat drastic change in the Italian bands’ sound. Things are not only warmer and more vibrant, they are also far busier. For those accustomed to the sense of space on prior releases such as “Dust” or the now-classic cover of Japandroids’ “I Quit Girls”, this may prove difficult to digest. It’s not that the writing is bad—quite the opposite is true—but the aesthetic has changed so much in a few noticeable ways; a synthesized sheen twinkles in the distance, new and exotic instrumentation lends intrigue to melodic departures, and the focus is quite obviously on percussion, which was perhaps the sparsest element of anything Be Forest did as a trio.

The emphasis on percussion is actually the hardest part of the new formula to swallow. There was a certain charm to the visceral and minimal approach to drums Be Forest had taken before. Erica Terenzi’s stand-up drumming was as much a signature of the sound as anything; her cavernous floor tom was so distinct and instantly recognizable. At best the new clinks, clacks, and chimes are joyful, celebratory, and a spirited addition to a formula that could occasionally be very bleak. At worst, however, they feel an unnecessary addition tacked on at the last minute. There remains a sense that the sound could be finessed, however, which is a hopeful prospect. When dynamics shift and claustrophobic passages open into breaks and lulls with more breathing room, or when the opposite happens too, the addition or removal of tension adds interest and variety that really, really works.

To be fair, perhaps the more frenetic drumming simply sounds out of place because so many new and ambitious things are happening elsewhere in the songs. Without question, all four members play their hearts out on Earthbeat. New player Lorenzo Badioli has obvious musical chemistry with guitarist Nicola Lampredi, most evident when he chooses key voices that sound more mischievous or playful behind the walls of reverberation. Lampredi’s tone has always sounded like shattered glass, and the contrast of frolicsome and almost innocent backing hooks against Lampredi’s now indescribably monolithic sound is flawless. Both gentlemen simply must be commended for how well they mesh together. This is best exemplified by the slinking, flute-like instrumentation Badioli utilizes in “Sparkle”, which may be the album’s strongest song. 

Vocalist/bassist Costanza Delle Rose also completely unleashes everything within her arsenal, as Earthbeat features some of her most tireless fretwork ever. In spite of the breakneck speeds at which she sometimes plays, she manages to soar more than ever vocally. The sound and the dichotomy is pure, otherworldly, ethereal bliss. One listen to “Lost Boy” would be enough to illustrate this perfectly; the pace is exhausting, but it never sounds as though she or any of the other members break a sweat. As always, they remain spectral and unflinching.

While the faster numbers do imbue three-fourths of the band with a newfound strength, it is truly the slower tempos which favor Terenzi’s shift in playing style, allowing her creativity to truly speak for itself. “Ghost Dance” shows a certain control and a very austere atmosphere, but it is on “Totem II” where all of her new ideas shine the most. The playing is inspired and not overly-repetitive, and it’s flexible enough to let the intricacies and quirks of the other instruments be more recognizable. Going forward, it may be wise for the four to continue to play with dynamics and space within songs, and with variations in tempo across albums, as Earthbeat certainly benefits from these moments of variety.

Normally, the addition of synthesizers or keyboards can sound the death knoll for guitar-driven bands, but there exists no clear reason for such a fate to befall Be Forest at all. Instead, this opens a host of new possibilities that should not stop these Italian marvels from doing what they do best, crafting a gigantic and piercing take on shoegaze and pseudo-goth that has not been rivaled before and may not be rivaled since. To be clear, Earthbeat does show signs of growing pains and incomplete metamorphosis, but there are far, far worse crimes for a band than to be marginally overly-ambitious. Earthbeat sets the stage nicely for further growth and enormous ideas, and Be Forest show no sign of forgetting who they are simply because of the addition of some new instrumentation.

 Overall Evaluation: 8.2 

Standouts:

Hideaway” ||  “Sparkle” ||  “Ghost Dance

Buy It Because – Be Forest are the biggest they’ve ever been sonically, and they show off without hesitation here. If you ever wanted to know just how much all of the members of the band were capable of before, Earthbeat should leave no questions. The addition of a new member adds volumes without subtracting anything, which is surely a rare feat for bands of any caliber or genre.
 
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