[sic] Magazine

Blackout Beach – Fuck Death

In The Decemberists , Neutral Milk Hotel before them, literate indie has its current, classicist figurehead. In Carey Mercer , Dan Bejar and Spencer Krug , that same micro-genre has its more experimental member base. When all three play together as Swan Lake , naturally there are fireworks. Bejar also holds his own as Destroyer , as well as with The New Pornographers . In turn, Krug keeps himself busy with Wolf Parade , the epic Sunset Rubdown and the organ-heavy endeavours of Moonface . Not to be outdone, Mercer maintains both the dense Frog Eyes project and also Blackout Beach .

To help put Fuck Death and its three-year conception into perspective, and in order to correctly place it in the triumvirate’s collective oeuvre, frontman Mercer’s go-to influences this time around include the Book of Job , the Russian film Come And See , George Orwell ‘s political Homage To Catalonia , the poetry of Archilochus and Shawn MacDonald ‘s “cloud-and-sky-and-stone images”. Fuck Death , itself named after a work by the American figural painter Leon Golub , may not be light, but it is rewarding.

All the same, at the heart of a self-recorded record that Mercer states is neither political nor romantic there is a jarring dichotomy. Reputedly “ an attempt to make something about beauty and war “, it is also a “ reassessing [of] cowardice “. Examining desertion, the strong opener, “Beautiful Burning Desire”, does just that. Thankfully, it’s a theme that isn’t applied too heavily, allowing the track’s open spaces and musical richness to shimmer forth unimpeded. Contrasting nicely with its earlier deftness, Mercer hammers the delay in its latter parts, swiftly rendering the track reflective and sombre in the process.

Aside from the gentle chatter of a drum machine, Fuck Death largely owes its existence to the interaction of both mono- and polyphonic synths. The tunnel-vision results are often warm, but, more surprisingly, they are also full in sound. Product only of himself, the expansive “Be Forewarned, The Night Has Come” therefore seems to employ a much larger cast. In fact, in terms of collaborators, Mercer only calls on fellow Frog Eye Megan Boddy throughout the whole album, and then only for backing vocal duty.

This power to make the relatively straightforward seem all-embracing works wonders on the subtly seething “Hornet’s Fury Into The Bandit’s Mouth”, an acerbic cut on which Mercer spits, rather than even attempts to sing out his distaste. The same applies to parts of the 12+ minute “Drowning Pigs”, which opens up with a metronomic drum beat amongst sparse and beautiful synth work. Mercer’s looped and clipped vocal is also striking, and nearly 5 minutes into the track the mood changes, building and quickening into a cacophony of competing drone and synth patterns. Calm and restraint are duly restored, only for Mercer to then run off into what seems like a different, intangible narrative thread.

This is a massively contemplative if purposefully elusive album. A certain sense of potential creeps up unexpectedly during the listen however, but it leaves you on the very cusp of enlightenment, falling back at the last minute to allow your own conclusions to be drawn. Its scope is cinematic too and its inviting levels are ripe for interpretation. The literary is, of course, usually about showing rather than telling. True then to form, Fuck Death tells you nothing you don’t already know, but it shows you just enough to eat away at the mind long after its curtain falls.

Advised downloads: “Beautiful Burning Desire” and “Hornet’s Fury Into The Bandit’s Mouth”.

~Fuck Death is out now on Dead Oceans .~

Blackout Beach @ myspace

Blackout Beach @ bandcamp