he best music is music that can make you think as well as feel, sounds that are as visceral as they are cerebral. And the best love songs are those that acknowledge that the power of human sexuality can be just as terrifying as it is thrilling, that the passion that leads us to love can also lead us into dark, dark places.
Welcome to the world of Brooklyn duo Beacon, who explore the dark side of the sweet melody with a sound that’s as seductive as it is subtly discomfiting. The duo – Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett – met at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, where they were studying sculpture and painting respectively. As with many other great musical partnerships, this one involves two disparate sets of influences coming together to form a sound that’s both fresh and exciting. They fuse the deceptively sweet melodies of R&B with an intoxicating undercurrent of darkness, drawing on influence as disparate as Warp’s back catalogue and Underworld.
The fusion of these two sounds – R&B’s melody and sexuality, electronic music’s complexity and, especially, the bass -
heavy sound design of Mullarney’s influences (“Bass is key to our music,” he enthuses, “big, thunderous rap bass”) – would provide a blueprint for Beacon’s own sound: there’s a duality at play here, an idea of something dark lurking beneath a sleek veneer, a sense of latent conflict and uncertain resolution. “I think the balance of inhibitions is at the core of my own songwriting,” says Mullarney. “The love songs we write are ones that have an inherent guilt implied. Inside love lives a more sinister, carnal element that is constantly being subdued or released.”
The duo’s first release is the No Body EP, four songs that deftly walk the line between seductive and sinister. The production takes as much from the world of non-vocal electronic music as it does from R&B and hip hop, setting Mullarney’s vocals against backdrops that define as much of the song’s atmosphere as do the words themselves. As Mullarney says, “We’re channeling some parts of R&B’s aesthetic, and updating them with today’s ambient, electronic instrumentation.” The result? “A kind of displaced, atmospheric pop.” Music for the 21st century, indeed.