You’ve probably already heard of BEAK>, but just in case you haven’t, they’re the new band of Geoff Barrow, one third of Portishead, Fuzz Against Funk’s Billy Fuller, and Matt Williams of Team Brick. All the material on the album, and it’s accompanying material on the deluxe edition, was recorded in one twelve day session, with no overdubs; only the studio has been used to create arrangements, through the process of editing the session.
This is an album that wears its influences on its sleeve from the off, but it matters not a jot as it combines them in such a creative an compelling manner that one is sucked in from the first note. Opening track ‘Backwell’ is so Krautrock it hurts, beginning with a propulsive, steady bass-line with an underlying organ part. When the NEU!-style drums kick in, it’s hard not to grin, and realise a treat is in store.
The following track Pill has much the same Kraut feel to it, but has inflections that are almost certainly Barrow’s, resembling Portishead’s contemporary classic Third in sonic texture. The influences that were well documented on that album come to the fore on ‘Ham Green’, as following some Damo Suzuki-era Can-like atmospherics things get heavy, an obliterative Sunn O)))-esque guitar part comes in, trouser-flappingly deep in a way that only the best drone doom can do.
Much of the rest of the album riffs on the same influences (although delay-laden post-rock and dub sounds also works their way in), all sounding so beautifully put together, that in some ways it’s difficult to comprehend that these were not written songs prior to recording. At the same time, it maintains a loose feel in some of the playing that confirms the improvised nature of the music, and can only make it a more exciting listening experience.
Overall, this is an incredibly enjoyable listening experience, especially for those of Kraut-inclined listening habits. Anyone who enjoyed the sound of Third should find something appealing here, although it is by no means as harrowing or dark as that record. Essentially, it’s Third’s cheerier, proggier, German cousin. While everyone concerns themselves with a fourth Portishead effort (and this writer is as excited by that prospect as anyone), some of us will be eagerly awaiting for a second BEAK> album to appear, whenever that might be.