Album Review: Beak>’s '>>>'
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
Spacious, beautiful and at times, fiendish, dynamic Krautrock trio Beak>, led by Portishead's Geoff Barrow, are back melding motorik psychedelia with meanderings of electronic dystopia on their latest and third album >>> An undoubted step forward musically, Beak>’s third installment to their brief yet intriguing discography is a natural maturation when considering their prior two projects. Beak and Beak 2 were veiled beneath a haze of distracting guise of distortion, but >>> finally sheds the band’s unnecessary fog to create an incredibly crisp and immanent experience. With Beak>’s sound now free to roam into otherworldly dimensions of experimental possibilities, the trio seems focused and determined to create music anyone has yet to hear. Though >>> doesn’t quite live up to the above statement, their ambitious attempt at combining elements of ‘70s Krautrock, psych and even IDM electronics makes Beak’s latest endeavor equally astonishing. Spliced with subdued repetition and psychedelia ala Can, each track on >>> holds a dark, forbidding, and atmospheric core which further sets this record apart from any other material Beak up until this point. Operating within a dystopian and a manic structure of instrumentation, >>> commences with The Brazillian, a song with a foreboding rhythm that weighs in the head of the listener with each passing second. With howling synths and forlorn horn sections launching the track into chaotic skies, the band sets a dementedly dynamic tone for the rest of the way. The record proceeds with an intoxicating slew of Krautrock drones and idyllic percussion in the form of “Brean Down,” the album’s first single. A stunning cut, to say the least, Barrow’s voice recalls the subdued croon of Kurt Cobain (See Nirvana’s “Dumb”) albeit, more composed, all while paying homage to the incessant percussion of NEU! Although the track maintains a rather even-tempered demeanor for most of its duration, the final 35 seconds sees the band explode into a glorious jam session that’ll leave listeners foaming from the mouth. Taking a disgustingly beautiful turn, the emotional disarray of Birthday Suit is a nauseating Ferris wheel of sound brimming with green lights and doom-filled psychedelia that gradually swells through several layers of electronic confusion. While it does not explode into spectacular proportions like “Brean Down,” it showcases Beak> at their most inventive selves yet. Transporting listeners by way of a trudging, almost lethargic rhythm, the song Harvester is the brooding turning point into darker extremes for Beak>. With steady merriment of bass, guitar, and hi hat-heavy drums at the forefront, the trio lures listeners into what appears to be a simple, tranquil psych-rock number. Needless to say, at the 1:10 mark, Beak> unleashes on its audience with sonic shrapnel as ominous string sections explode and drench the remainder of the track. Pointed with psychedelic delirium and dripping in radioactive sludge, the track “Alle Sauvage” is a monstrous cut that perpetuates emotions tied to insanity through each and every dizzying moment. Arguably the most adventurous moment on the entire album, “Alle Sauvage” is Beak’s crown jewel moment as an “experimental” band—it’s astonishingly vivid and lush, yet remains persistent with its eargasmic simplicity. With minimal soundscapes pushed to their limits, Beak>’s dark and rustic posture is oddly refreshing. Though the numerous echoed melodies and ceaseless repetition make >>> a challenging listen (see the track “Abbots Leigh”), its chaotic beauty is a psychedelic kick that mandates a listen. From the drop of the needle, this album will induce heavy chills due to its atmospheric arrangement of pandemonium and fusion of new age electronics with undaunted Kraut roots. Although the sound of Beak> is a phenomenon unto itself, their latest album is an obvious lovechild of Boards of Canada and Can. In fact, it slides perfectly between effortless ambient pseudo-electronica, and the raw, brutal minimalism of ‘70s Krautrock, while hiding away curious little surprises of pure experimental intent beneath. >>> serves as the perfect mediator between the long-winded abstractions of IDM and the seemingly restrained simplicity of motorik beats. The movement and progression of sound of >>> is a simultaneously lucid and absorbing achievement, and for this reason and many more, Beak> remains one of the very best at subverting genre conventionality.
THE 405 RATING: 7.5/10