Spirit of the Beehive
(Saddle Creek ***)
Philly's Spirit of the Beehive make collage-like, destabilized music that's full of voices submerged below a surface of blurry synthesizers, scrambles of found sounds, and unsteady time signatures.
It's alien but not alienating. Moments of shiny melodies and sunny guitar hooks regularly interrupt the anxious weirdness, and vice versa, like patches of blue sky appearing through low-hanging clouds.
"Entertainment, Death," their fourth album, is full of bright spots. But it's also a dark, nightmarish album, with lyrics that dwell on the inevitability of death, sometimes delivered sweetly, sometimes in an evil shout, often heavily processed.
The trio — Zack Schwarz, Rivka Ravede and Corey Wichlin — relish subverting their noisy songs with pop and their poppy songs with noise.
Most tracks are less than three minutes, but they're dense with ideas and hard to pin down. They dip into the psychedelic wildness of Animal Collective and Deerhunter ("Wrong Circle"), into the warped synth-pop of Philly's A Sunny Day in Glasgow ("It Might Take Some Time"), into dreamy shoegaze ("Death"), into woozy soul-funk ("Rapid & Complete Recovery") and, even, on "Wake Up (In Rotation)," into cheery indie rock.
Listening to "Entertainment, Death" is like entering the devilish fun house depicted on the cover: It startles, surprises, and delights, and it keeps you on edge. — Steve Klinge