Tess Roby – Beacon – Review

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By Jack

Tess Roby’s debut is punchy, atmospheric, drum heavy dream pop – anchored by a virtuoso vocal turn from Roby.

Beacon represents something of an expansion for Italians Do It Better, the label lauded for their highly stylised drone. The only track here that feels close to home is ‘Catalyst’, the ethereal mood and circular synth pad sounding similar to stable mates The Chromatics and Desire. Chiming like a doomsday clock this track is a singular moment, an excerpt of deathly poetry in an otherwise versatile album.

Beacon is refreshingly rhythmic, with syncopated beats that energise the stately synth tones that are the album’s bedrock. Agile electric guitar and gentle bass grooves add to an understated, optimistic tone, that breaks satisfyingly against Roby’s voice.

You sense that Tess Roby’s vocals will be something of a marmite sound, so booming and fatalistic. There’s always a risk of succumbing to dirge, which Beacon occasionally does. However she is so distinctive, so committed to a kind of jet-black nihilism it’s hard not to be impressed, even when she’s recounting lofty stanzas into the sea breeze on ‘Catalyst’.

The mask slips a little on ‘Beacon’ – “I miss you now more than ever” – is no recital, it is a rare moment of vulnerability. It reminds us that behind the arty trappings there is a beating heart. That track incidentally, is the standout – a testament to Roby’s late father.

There are many moments of greatness on here, moments that take your breath away, like the sudden appearance of a synth arp to energise the drumless track ‘Borders’, which tempo-shifts into an experimental finale.

Beacon is goth pop full of life and invention.

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