by Sam Hawkins
Having had very little contact with Brooklyn based duo Beacon, and the brand of minimalist electronica they’ve produced since 2013, the group’s Vancouver tour date situated on the other side of the continent had me surprised and immensely satisfied with the exciting live approach they’d taken with their studio recordings.
After somewhat forgettable performances from opening artists Lord RAJA and Jade Statues, the former of the two who employed a long form video component—a sort of National Geographic montage which happened to be the most compelling part of his electronic set—I wasn’t exactly expecting the most impressive or awe-inspiring show, even coming from that night’s headliner.
Beacon’s one and only album, The Ways We Separate, is an enjoyable and well-crafted piece of soothing synth-pop, but with their characteristically down-tempo song structure, and R&B influenced instrumentation, I only anticipated further lull.
But as midnight rolled around, and then twelve thirty struck, the pores of the crowd closed shut, and all the lights dimmed down.
In shadow, the twosome (Thomas Mullarney and Jacob Gossett) took the stage, and a kaleidoscope of light appeared upon them suddenly, and already I was taken by the likes of some sort of tractor beam.
Listening to the album in private, there was never any sign of such theatrics, but here they were, rocking back and forth against their soundboards, hands bobbing and heads bopping, and the microphone being cradled like a fuming cigar or cigarette; swirls of flared luster extinguishing and reappearing upon their two faces as they weaved between points of light and dark.
Unlike that on their album, there was real punch to what they were performing, every song drawn out and executed with a previously unheard fervor. In spite of their restrained composition, there were moments that bordered on the incessant, as a monolithic wall of sound was erected and then held in place for what seemed to last longer than I can even remember.
And with vocals reminiscent of Thom Yorke, their staging and overall energy was comparable to the likes of Radiohead’s most erratic work, even when one might feel more comfortable comparing their recordings to the calmer sections of that catalogue.
Beacon arrived that night already having my ear, but they left with me really listening.
Good luck to them on the rest of their North American tour and forever afterwards.
Cover photo by Chad Kamenshine