Bristol trio exhibits loose-but-tight grooves and a near-psychic ability to gel as one.
Noel Gardner 2012-07-04
The story, such as it is, behind the second BEAK> album has not been attributed to an author, but it’s safe to assume that it was at least approved by Geoff Barrow, the most senior member of the Bristol-based trio. It has his hallmarks of mild self-mockery and a weariness towards the vagaries of the music industry.
Touring their 2009 debut, it is suggested, drained their creativity, and early recording sessions for its follow-up took an almost fatally long time to ignite. Once they did, though, the results were golden. Listeners can only vouch for the final chapter, but given that the 10 tracks on the awkwardly titled >> were recorded pretty much live in the studio, we’ve been gifted an impressive document of a band in full Krautrock-psychedelia-horrorprog flow.
Barrow, who founded Portishead over two decades ago, certainly has the widest recognition of BEAK>’s line-up, but previous projects by Billy Fuller (also of Fuzz Against Junk and a session bassist for Massive Attack among others) and Matt Williams (who’s released short-run experimental music under several names, Team Brick probably the best known) suggest they’re invaluable to the results.
Stacking up synths from The Gaol onwards, the turbocharged Italo/synthwave that Barrow explored on Drokk, his recent team-up with Ben Salisbury, makes a brief showing in the form of Liar. And when matters are more rock-band orthodox – guitar, bass and drums – BEAK> retain a machine-like quality, thanks to their dedication to repetition.
Yatton and Elevator clearly consider the early/mid-70s work of Can and Neu! sacred texts, alongside nods to more recent Kraut-apers like Trans Am. Wulfstan II, perhaps the highlight of the whole disc, leans heavily on eerie, goth-rock organ mixed with knuckleheaded hard rock thud and the ritualistic chants of quasi-doom metal duo Om.
There are vocals, but they’re used more as an extra layer of sound than a vessel to impart lyrical wisdom. Equally, you wouldn’t listen to >> to marvel at the technical wizardry of BEAK>’s members – rather, their loose-but-tight sense of groove and near-psychic ability to gel as one.