The result of their labour is a work of buzzing sweetness, one that melds solid beats and liquid atmospheres into a musical substance that’s soothing, yielding, and almost therapeutically easy to listen to. At the same time, there’s great complexity here if you care to turn the volume dial clockwise: this is a record which opens up into a microscopic labyrinth of levels and layers full of thrumming, enthralling vibrations.
The album opens with ‘Love the One You’re With’, which sounds like the sun emerging from behind spring clouds, pouring twinkling light onto rain-washed concrete. Straight away, all the elements of the album are evident: layer upon layer of cycling sounds, some soft, all polished clean and arranged in such a way that their value is equally rhythmic, timbral and melodic. Such a blend could end up being sound soup, but there’s just enough separation of the elements for motivations to remain apparent, and for the flavours to remain distinct. Not only that, but, however abstracted, this is still groove music, still house – albeit a house made for and by another species.
So then (of course) there’s ‘Honey’, which is close to Isolée’s music, the Isolée of ‘Lost’. The commonality comes from the burbling gulp of the synth line, the epic length of the reverb-widened corridor it opens, and the way the whole arrangement chases itself down it. Then there’s also the visual connection, drawn (literally) by Stefan Marx, whose art has adorned other Smallville records, as well as select Playhouse and Mule releases.
Back to the source of the buzz, and to its ebb and flow in particular – another hallmark here is the way Moufang and Brunn take their foot off the ‘boom-click’ pedal and allow the soundfields they make to fill with loose-moving air. A sheer joy throughout is the massive undercurrent of floating tones – ‘Radar’, the last, largest and perhaps best track on the album, is the very definition of house in zero gravity. It’s a pleasure that’s only equalled by the way the whole thing eventually evaporates underneath, slowly bringing you back (safely, comfortably) to terra firma.
As a listening experience, Songs from the Beehive is captivating. As you can probably tell by now, I think the whole thing is magnificent. Incredulous readers should be mindful that I’m partial to this style, though – others might not find it so engaging. All the same, there’s something really special here, which is why Songs from the Beehive deserves an unconditional recommendation, and is my shoo-in for album of the year (so far). This is more than just entertainment, better than just well made. Good entertainment does what it should, and if it speaks, it speaks to you of other things, it reminds you of something else you enjoy. But great albums speak about themselves – they draw you in and suspend you in their own inimitable soundworld, from first note to last. Songs from the Beehive is just such an album – and it sings sweetly.