Hot on the heels of his Quakers hip hop project ,and the Judge Dredd inspired / Drokk soundtrack collaboration , Geoff Barrow unveils the second Beak> album ,the krautrock inspired band formed with Billy Fuller and Matt Williams. Available on CD & a 2 LP set the initial version of the LP is pressed on heavy vinyl and comes in a foil embossed sleeve. There is an accepted music industry strategy, mainly from the mouths of experienced music managers and A&R men, that for a band to get ready to present themselves to the world they should go on tour. In most cases this advice works; the band hone their craft on the road so by the time they get on to Later with Jools Holland they can amaze with their slick, tight rock performance. However, this doesn t always work. BEAK> formed by Geoff Barrow - Matt Williams - Billy Fuller in 2009 recorded their self-titled debut album in Bristol, created out of 12 days of improv sessions and then edited into song form. Shorty after releasing it on INVADA records UK and Ipecac records U.S., the band went on a successful tour, playing various festival dates across Europe and the U.S. Buzzing from the tour, Beak> then returned to the studio to start work on ALBUM 2 only to find that the time on the road had taken its toll on the band s delicately sensitive and creative nature. And, by consequence, had turned them into a truly awful-sounding pub prog-rock band. The magic had gone. It seemed that the band were thoroughly moribund. Until... One rainy afternoon in Bristol after many tortured, truly terrible recording sessions something changed. It may have been the diesel fumes from the bands tour splitter bus had worn off, others say that the band simply turned their amplifiers down. We will possibly never know the true events of that afternoon but the band began to play and, once again as before, their bleak, wobbly anti-blue note sound had returned, but this time with added synthesizers.And so... recorded in one room live (with very few overdubs) Beak>> is upon us.
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.
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