Music Reviews
The Ways We Separate

Beacon The Ways We Separate

(Ghostly) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Believe it or not, there was once a time where I would have considered The Ways We Separate, the debut full-length from electro-pop duo Beacon, to be club music. Way back when, my brother and I would listen to dreamy progressive house producers like Kaskade on our way to school thinking the atmosphere and romance in tracks like Move for Me (Another Night Out) and I Remember was what got bodies moving on the dance floor. This was, however, shortly before the “bro-step” craze swept the nation, and my first actual experience in the club inevitably proved me wrong as bass drop after bass drop rang in my ears. Still, I can’t help but listen to the driving beats and sweet melodies of The Ways We Separate without slipping back into that mindset.

Of course, comparing the mild-mannered approach of Beacon to the hair gel and graphic tee sensibilities of such house producers is highly unfitting, as despite the fact that it may have been usurped by caffeinated dub-step in recent years, it’s still undeniably club music. But while the gauzy dreaminess and subtle builds of tracks like Feelings Gone do insight comparisons, it would be hard to imagine spikey-haired “gorillas” pumping their fists to the sparse, intimate tracks on The Ways We Separate, an undeniably danceable collection of synth pop with an atmosphere more suitable for smoke machines than strobe lights.

Admittedly, there is very little in the elements that make up The Ways We Separate that we haven’t already heard before. The duo’s sound is certainly built on a number of sonic elements currently trending in the electronic music world – haunting, bass-y undercurrents, smokey RnB vocals – and a number of synth melodies found in tracks like Studio Audience Full and Split in Two sound right out of Aphex Twin’s first Selected Ambient Works collection. However, it’s the way that the group combines all of these elements into their own stark, moody vision that makes the group’s debut worth looking into, as The Way We Separate proves to be an incredibly consistent, well-crafted, and fully realized experienced that submerges the listener in a lush, hazy environment.

Still, this consistency does result in one of the ultimate downsides of the album, as there is little to nothing in terms of surprises to shake things up in Beacon’s serene world. Though the brooding standout Overseer does bring a much needed level of tension halfway through to hint at some diversity, the linear, monochromatic scheme of the album does make it a bit tiring the longer you listen to it. It’s hard to be impressed by the group’s impressive command of atmospherics in tracks like Headlights and Anthem when you’ve already heard them pull the same exact trick in the past seven tracks beforehand. This methodology proves effective for sound-tracking gloomy, melancholy environments, but after a while, you’re kind of left wishing Beacon would stretch out a bit past the “grey, rainy day” motif.

Though hard to notice at a passing glance, the two figures bathed white on the cover of The Way We Separate are performing a magic trick – not staring intently into each other’s eyes like you’d expect. The latter would make much more sense, however, as The Way We Separate is an undoubtedly intimate and romantic synth pop album that, for better or worse, pulls no tricks on the listener.