Spirit of the Beehive's 'ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH' Captures the Beautiful Chaos of the Human Mind
Published Apr 06, 2021The words "entertainment" and "death" one after another seem like a commentary on society — as if to say our current social media-driven world is entirely built upon quick-consuming content until we're burnt out or die. While only loosely based around this concept, Spirit of the Beehive's new album sounds like it is speeding up this process.
To put it succinctly, the band's fourth album ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH is a mood, or really all of the moods — a scattered inclination to experience the simultaneous hysteria and serenity of the chaotic nature of our unfiltered minds. The Philadelphia-based three-piece, led by Zack Schwartz and Rivka Ravede, do not try to tame their inner thoughts but rather harness them to blossom into something manically weird and totally wondrous.
Following the departure of two of their members during the pandemic, Spirit of the Beehive take one big step away from the traditional band set-up of guitar, bass and drums that they started out with on their self-titled debut in favour of a multi-instrumentalist approach drawing from elements of shoegaze, psych-folk, screamo and experimental electronic music. Songs like "THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN'T DO" contain all of the above, starting out with a hypnotic, murky riff and Rivka Ravede's blissed out vocals that slowly mutate into abrasive guitar screeches and Zach Schwartz's freaky screams, tied together with a thumping programmed beat and creepy voice sample that repeats the song's title. On their prior album, 2017's Hypnic Jerks, the inclusion of field recordings gave the album a mystical, all-encompassing aura, but on ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH, the samples resemble snippets of a nightmare that are cleverly weaved into the sporadic melodies of the songs.
Spirit of the Beehive texturally piece together nonsensical emotions, a jumbled and miraculous mess exactly as they are remembered or felt in our heads. Album opener "ENTERTAINMENT" starts out with noisy electronics only to be temporarily smoothed out by the Schwartz's vaporous vocals, like snapping out of an incoherent trip. The shifts in temperament on the album are complex within any given song, as the band sort through a plethora of ideas in whatever ways feel natural. The penultimate seven-minute track "I SUCK THE DEVIL'S COCK," for example, is a hallucinatory four-part journey of disjointed sketches that bleed into each other, profusely but with purpose.
Many other moments on ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH are just as cryptically absurd and endlessly fascinating. A common thread of the record is tied up in a feverish daydream, revealing the band's loose interpretations of a possible fault in the simulation. Each listen to the album reveals another asymmetrical layer that adds to its seductive arrangements. The fizzy, slowcore guitars on "GIVE UP YOUR LIFE" are pitch-warped askew while Schwartz's bare, emo-inflicted voice is clear (rather than passed through myriad effects, like usual). There are lurking, subconscious voices nudging, "No limitations, you know what I'm after," as on "RAPID & COMPLETE RECOVERY," prodded by a sunny, lightly strummed guitars and Ravede's slinking, groovy bassline. Little catchy earworms come and go in an instant — was it Ravede's entrancing dream pop verse in the first half of "WRONG CIRCLE" that is stuck in your head? Or was it her hazily climbing bass and gloomy backing vocal in "THE SERVER IS IMMERSED"?
Spirit of the Beehive's unsettling compositions are not for casual listening. On ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH, every fragmented idea is thoughtfully ripped apart and stitched back together with the gusto of a delirious genius. The band reframes reality and mixes the euphoric highs with the sinking lows in strangely surreal collages that are freakishly beautiful, leaving you feeling kinda stoned and a little bit sinful. (Saddle Creek)