Album Review: Beat Connection - Product 3

Local Music, Album Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra

Tomorrow, Beat Connection drop their new LP, Product 3, on ANTI- Records. Everything about that sentence makes me want to run outside shouting for joy and hug the first person I see. Beat Connection fans, both in their home town of Seattle and afar, have been waiting on Product 3 for a minute now. The record's first offering, "Hesitation", was our Song of the Day last July. Second sampler "Another Go Round" followed in September. By the time "Illusion" took the blogosphere by storm in March, fans were ready to pop a blood vessel. But the wait couldn't have been more worth it. The BC boys played their cards right, and now, Product 3 - a record that has an astounding five single-ready offerings (low estimate) - is getting a full-fledged, full-promotion release on ANTI- Records. This is a big new chapter for Beat Connection and it's incredibly exciting. Keenly aware of the pressures of "selling out", if you will, Beat Connection have cleverly curated a record that plays around the very idea of art as a product and the incongruences therein. Product 3 is a statement of a record, and exactly the statement that Beat Connection needed to break into a bigger, broader landscape where their colorful, vibrant textures can thrive on a massive scale. Product 3 is worthy of both your discretionary spending and your utmost attention.

Product 3 is the sweetest when you put it in its full context. Beat Connection introduced themselves back in 2010 with Surf Noir, a nu-disco influenced and house-leaning mini-album whose sonic focus and determination was bulletproof. Back then, Beat Connection sported a humble two-man setup, and to continue to grow to their full potential, they knew a larger lineup and a proper frontman (in the form of "Silver Screen" vocalist Tom Eddy) was inevitable. This, of course, put lead producer Reed Juenger and singer/guitarist Tom Eddy at a slight impasse. Which would win over in Beat Connection's sound: Juenger's crystalline dance brilliance, or Eddy's worldly, dreaming singer-songwriter charm? The answer, as we saw in 2012 follow up The Palace Garden was: both. Palace Garden is a very visual album, that sees Juenger and Eddy pulling from the same picturesque ideas to come together and tie each other down in collaboration. While these growing pains were no doubt testing, the endurance that Beat Connection has put forth is being rewarded here and now, as we see Product 3 perfect the balance between these two great creators.

Even before Product 3 had a name, we started to see the concept that Beat Connection were dialing in on for full-length #2 in the single art for "Illusion". A trash bag positioned like a fine art sculpture with our only interest in capturing a digital rendering of it - our consumption approach to art and culture at its finest. Being from Seattle, Beat Connection are no strangers to this incredibly important conversation of commerce versus culture. Where do the two find a happy medium, if ever? Leading up to the record, Reed posted Beat Connection DJ mixes with names like Amazon Fresh and Industrial Condo Sadness. The influence of the city's changing rhythm is a massive influence on this record, and it comes out in every note they play, no matter how lush or tropical. A common struggle gave them the central concept they needed to put together a record with a sense of immediacy - one that really feels like it matters.

Tom Eddy writes some great songs about relationships. The back and forth struggles that we've seen in his historic solo work and finally carrying over to Beat Connection in really rewarding ways. After the familiar singles fade, "Thought Through" finds Eddy asking whether or not all the angles have been taken into consideration. It's a very maximalist take on relationships a la if this isn't like I thought it would be, I'd better start over. While it's a situation that everyone can relate to, it's a sentiment that dominates in the shiny, chrome world of a product-heavy tech wonderland like Seattle. Similar things happen on "The Effort", where stonewalling takes precedent over communication. Meanwhile, Reed's crisp, visceral productions navigate a path out of Beat Connection's generalizing pigeonhole of "tropical" into a cold, lush fall landscape. "The Effort" even ends with a pounding house hook that harkens back to the likes of "Theme From Yours Truly". Over and over (just like the song!), Eddy and Juenger find a perfect way to meet in the middle to make a real batch of songs. Sometimes you want to sing, sometimes you want to dance, but with Product 3, you always want to listen.

Reality and expectation constantly clash on Product 3, but they do it in brilliant, visceral ways. "Reality TV" paints love with interview cutaways over a divine nu-disco hook. "Air Conditioning" is a slow jam for a miscommunication, dropping the context and trying for intimacy without real commitment. But after all of the photoshopped happiness and cropped out sadness, "Rosalene" reminds us that real life is the best place to find love. It's a fourth quarter banger that you could hit repeat on for a solid hour. But if you did that, you'd miss out on one of the best tracks on the record. Closer "I Hope You Know" is the most eclectic, tangential track on the record. It starts with a skittering hi-hat break that feels like its about to explode, but then it cools out into one of the most heartfelt moments on the record. Oh yeah, and then there's that French-language outro - Tom Eddy, ladies and gentlemen. With Product 3 Beat Connection maintain the eclectic dance collage that have defined their incredibly interesting career thus far, but they do so in a cohesive and effective manner. With their debut on ANTI- Records, Beat Connection show off their strengths in all the best ways. Product 3 is the record they have been working towards for a long time, and the result is pristine.

Product 3 is out this week on ANTI-. Grab it at your local record store on CD or (slightly later this month) on electric blue vinyl! Beat Connection are headed out on the massive Product Placement tour in support of the record shortly, but before they do that, catch them FOR FREE THIS SATURDAY at R Day, sponsored by KEXP, and also featuring the Helio Sequence! Drink proceeds benefit KEXP's new home! It will be a great way to send off one of our favorite acts on their biggest tour yet, so come join us!

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