Dom Maltempi’s reflections on new Dirty Beach’s double album


Dirty Beaches – Drifters

Its Cleveland 1978, Life Stinks– by Pere Ubu— ricochets from a squalid….. No, it’s 1985. Asylum Party is playing in your head. You’re passed out standing up, leaning on a tottering book-case in Courbevoie, France. The denuded and pointedly emotional sounds festoon around each other sending one into a blurry dream orbit. Or it might as well be 2013 in Berlin. It is! Hello Berlin! Dirty Beaches have released their new double album Drifters/Love is the Devil. The albums were recorded in Montreal, and in Berlin. 

Drifters reaches out to a listener, shows a little raw skin, keeping one’s ear close, head moving about a bit, but not richly swallowed up in what is to come on the second half. There is more movement in the synths, exposed flesh in the cool oscillating pressures that push around a track such as the almost danceable Belgrade. First tune ‘Night Walk,’ is strong, playfully-ribald, crepitating, viscerally metallic, stomping not always so seriously into that half-dark water.

These songs are intensely personal, and share the same conceptual blood. I couldn’t stop their earnest procession once I picked up the album. I got the sensation when I heard them of being led to a quiet screening room, where the sounds were presented visually, strongly inscribing themselves as a unitary creature wandering a unique shifting landscape, at turns painfully enshrouded in minimal murk, and quietly brimming with pulchritude. The artist was/is dealing with the loss of love, and had moved to Berlin. 

The past be damned, the possible aesthetic or other sorts of antecedents of these conjoined albums drugged, and peacefully dragged by the arms through the mirage halls—–legs calmly twitching, newly shaved. I’ve had little exposure to the music made by Alex Zhang Hungtai. A few Dirty Beaches tunes have hit my ear, and resonated nicely; but I never followed up due to the usually shitty attention fracturing whip-and-wait moments of my day. Perhaps that’s for the better. I’m not drawn to make comparisons to their previous records. I came across this new album haphazardly, washing dishes, and listening to an on-line music stream. A track comes on. 

„I don’t know how to find my way back to you,“ breathes the deep red gelid air of Gesualdo—an Italian Noblemen and madrigalist of the late 16th Century, who murdered his cuckolding wife and lover after he caught them in flagrante delicto late at night when they thought he would be away doing whatever counts did back then. Carlo knew what was up, and he took revenge. 

(If you’re curious about the composer Gesualdo check: 




Dirty Beaches – Love is the devil

The track may not be possessed by the same—at times shockingly chromatic passages, sung with equal voices soaring dissonantly higher into space, and experimentally shaking the firmament sick. It does share a peculiar slow tempo that radiates out a wide flowing agony, heart stung lashing and longing, other-worldly clam and terror—bridging to who knows where else. It is the track that feels like the central bridge between the two albums, a dissonant nexus, a south sinking tunnel with soft hands digging. The songs on “Love is the Devil,” are the ones that stayed with me more, becoming the more infecting and impressive.

The song Berlin closes Love is the Devil. The hardly dressed song watches itself from a cragged and high-altitude small tight patch. Its air is thin, but noble. It’s best not to shuffle around too much on this precarious but calming perch. Perhaps ones equanimity can be recaptured again, perhaps not. It is night and somewhere north of forlorn in relation to the rest of the latter half of this double album. There is much wandering about, and this spreading floor of wandering is strewn with exilic objects casting long shadows. Berlin blends with crickets well, and falls out of its crestfallen stockings in its 7 minutes and 37 seconds— while walking an even pace back to who knows what.

Bjoern Hering

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