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Friday, 22 June 2012

Record Review - Beak >

Beak> is the experimental side project of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, along with two other Bristol musicians, Matt Williams and Billy Fuller. Simply called >>, this is their second album since forming in 2009, and despite largely following a similar template e.g. “recorded in one room live [with very few over dubs]” it’s possibly less unconventional than its predecessor >. That said, it never follows a mainstream path even at its most accessible, although traces of Portishead are occasionally discernible.

Opening track ‘The Gaul’ is a discordant cacophony to say the least, but there’s something very gripping to the point of mesmeric about it too, in a masochistic kind of way. I can see how it could make queasy listening for some people though, kind of like an aural equivalent to the way that strobe lights affect some epileptics!

Neu! are the most obvious reference point on >>, with some Can and a bit of Kraftwerk thrown in for good measure to further solidify the Krautrock influences, particularly on sublime tracks like ‘Yatton’, ‘Spinning Top’ and ‘Liar’. ‘Wulfstan II’ deviates into heavier and darker realms and has a distinct metallic industrial feel to it, thanks to the sonorous bass riff and short sharp sonic shocks. At times there are distant similarities to Mogwai too, particularly on closing track ‘Kidney’, as it builds up to a droning hypnotic, gut rumbling climax before gently fading out.

It might be too easy to describe anything with a repetitive 4/4 beat as motorik these days, but there simply isn’t any better description for it, and it’s nothing less than kosmische too: you’ll be hard pushed to find a finer example of contemporary Krautrock influenced sounds right now. Broadly speaking then, Beak> have the ability to inspire awe and strike dumb in equal measure – a lo-fi classic indeed and truly outstanding album to boot! Can we have some live dates to accompany this release please?

Rich Deakin

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