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Beach House enraptures Uptown Theater crowd with waves of ambiance, dissonance

Beach House enchanted an Uptown Theater audience with its unique sounds Saturday night.
Beach House enchanted an Uptown Theater audience with its unique sounds Saturday night.

More composers than songwriters, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, who perform as the duo Beach House, create soundscapes, waves of ambiance and/or dissonance that render a variety of moods and atmospheres.

Theirs isn’t commercial music; there are few, if any, pop moments in their songs. And depending upon how deeply their listeners let themselves get involved, prolonged exposure to their music and midtempo rhythms can be either hypnotic or monotonous.

Saturday night, a crowd of about 1,000 gathered at the Uptown Theater to listen to Beach House, whose sound was fortified with a live drummer and another band member who added live and programmed sounds.

For 90 minutes, they unleashed ripples and surges of sounds, some of it fuzzy, virulent and stormy, some of it gauzy, tranquil and dreamy. Comparisons to the Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star and Slowdive are fair and accurate, but Beach House has concocted a sound that is its own.

Legrand is the band’s lead singer and keyboardist. Her voice (think of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star or Julee Cruise) is pretty in an interesting way. Amid the sounds that surround it — drums, synthesized noises and Scally’s ornate guitar forays — her voice becomes another instrument, another layer of sound. At times, the noise around it overwhelmed her voice and her lyrics were imperceptible, which didn’t seem to matter much to an audience that was attentive throughout the show.

The light show was arresting. At times, the band was backlit, cast as silhouettes amid wafts of fog. When she wore the hood on her long black cape, Legrand looked uber-gothy, almost Grim Reaper-ish. Behind the band, a triptych of video screens displayed a variety of images. For a few songs, a constellation of pinhole lights glowed across the back of the stage.

They opened with “Levitation,” a track from “Depression Cherry,” one of two albums Beach House released in 2015. Other songs on the set list: “PPP,” another “Depression Cherry” song; the haunting “10 Mile Stereo”; the dissonant “Space Song”; the spacey “Elegy to the Void”; and “Days of Candy,” the second of two encores.

As it had all night, the crowd watched raptly and swayed gently, as if in repose on a beach, hypnotized by the waves crashing and rippling ashore.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain