The recording of Spirit of the Beehive’s new EP, i’m so lucky, was, in some senses, a peaceful reprieve from the chaos of years past. The Philadelphia band’s distortion-scuffed early records, like 2014’s The Spirit of the Beehive, were recorded in a freezing studio while chain-smoking cigarettes, popping Adderall, and dodging the “billion” people who lived in the building. A rotating lineup settled into a core trio of Rivka Ravede, Zack Schwartz, and Corey Wichlin just in time for the pandemic. Working at a distance made for a more fragmented process, which spawned the frantic, paranoid collages of 2021’s ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH.

Now they’ve returned to working in person, in a studio that Schwartz and Wichlin built together in a vinyl pressing plant in Philly. They still indulge in stuttering sampledelia and electronic experimentalism, but i’m so lucky is relatively more straightforward and pleasant than much of their recent work. The opening pair of “human debenture” and “really happening” recalls the bleary-eyed indie rock—like Alex G’s mysterious early experiments—that was bubbling within the Philadelphia DIY scene when they were first coming up. Even when they detour through distressed noise rock in “human debenture,” it feels sleek and approachable.

But this polish and efficiency conceals a different kind of disarray. In 2022, Ravede and Schwartz broke up after a romantic relationship that lasted over a decade. At first, neither was sure if the band would continue. “For the first three or four months after it ended, it was pretty rough,” Schwartz said in a statement. But they pressed on, and used these songs to process some of the confusing feelings—both the pain and the lasting tenderness—in the wake of their dissolution.

Their lyrics remain elliptical and elusive, but from the fragments that do surface, it’s clear that they’re working through some heavy emotions. On “natural devotion 2,” a sequel to a yearning 2015 song, Ravede sings about a relationship that’s gradually receding into the past. “Now I feel the shadow of your touch,” she sings. “The years return to memory for us.” On the blown-out, sludgy “tapeworm,” Schwartz screams about the insatiable appetite of the parasite, “eating all and then register the bereaved who are left with nothing.” It’s an intense contrast between nostalgia and bitterness, and like most breakups, this one seems to have inspired a little of both.

Because it’s only four short tracks, one imagines that i’m so lucky only scratches at the surface of this complicated period in the band’s life, but it feels clear-headed and complete in its own way. The intensity expressed in these songs is felt all the more directly because they aren’t clouded in compositional contortions or studio trickery. The record’s very existence feels like a commitment to trudge on together, even though things have changed. On i’m so lucky, Spirit of the Beehive stare directly at the chaos, unsteady but unafraid.

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Spirit of the Beehive: I’m So Lucky EP