BEAK> - >>>
Listening to BEAK> and their new record >>> makes me nervous.
Their third and most cohesive offering to the musical landscape is sludgy, raw, and filled with a hypnotic tension. Until now, it seemed as though that Geoff Barrow (yes, of Portishead fame) and bandmates Billy Fuller and Will Young were content creating untamed, unstructured grooves and a dizzying trip of effects. And until the second track of >>> begins, you’d think it was more of the same coming. It’s not.
>>> is much more than neo-psychedelic rock or krautrock-inspired sludge. It reaches for much more. Combining both the strengths of previous records with a newfound structure and depth, >>> is a refreshing journey with tons of meat on the bone. Four songs in, and you’ve got four very different songs that somehow fit under the overall BEAK> aesthetic umbrella. It’s the eerie tension that holds it together. Whether it’s the frenzying bongo solos on “Brean Down” or Barrow’s anxious, uncertain vocal style on the Beatles-esque “Harvester”, the tension gives the album depth.
In fact, it’s on “Brean Down” that it becomes clear that this is a different BEAK> album. It’s urgent, concise and actually has vocal hooks, signalling signs of a unified message coming over the next 43 minutes. “Birthday Suit” is a calming reset before “Harvester” steals the show. It’s the most stripped back and simplified song on the album and yet it is the most interesting. Almost uncomfortable by its accessibility, the band throws “Allé Sauvage” at us next, a sprawling, dizzying 7-minute hypnotic groove.
The second half of the album is less urgent and impactful, although there are still some bold ideas. “Teisco” begins with a bass line teeming with potential and takes it no where, randomly ending after two short minutes. The album does, however, conclude successfully with the emotional and tender “When We Fall”, an ominous warning on the fate of mankind. It’s similar in feel to the transfixing “Harvester” heard earlier, but has an extra layer of depth and crescendo, showing another layer of talent that the trio harnesses.
Overall, BEAK> has taken an undeniable and positive step forward in their progression. Channeling their strengths and shedding some habits that they may have felt made them who they are, the trio has delivered some true gems. The sum is greater than the parts here, and as a unit >>>, despite its flaws, is an album that breaks through the clutter with a significant dose of impressive ideas and groovy moments.