'>>' = Beak #II. 'Beak>' #I was released in 2009 and I was drawn to
it for its uncompromising left-field shenanigans. Portishead alumnus
Geoff Barrow and his two cohorts, Billy Fuller and Matt Williams, are
at it again with this willfully strange collection of ten new numbers.
It is unclear whether they subjected themselves, as previously, to yet
another twelve-day recording schedule to wrap it up but the results are
just as intriguing and infuriating (in a nice way) as any of their earlier
work. It's a real ensemble piece nonetheless and once you get used to their
one-bat-short-of-a-belfry schtick there's a lot of fun to be had in this
knowingly difficult music. The bass rumbles and drones; the drums thump and
clatter and all manner of loopy synth interventions weave and wander in and
out of the tightly-structured rhythmic foundations. It might have all been
made up on the spot for all I know but the effect is curiously engaging.
Two tracks deserve an especial mention. 'Yatton', a "song" of sorts, with
a foursquare lolloping beat and virtually incomprehensible vocals and the
spooky and disorientating 'Ladies Mile' which wobbles about in your head like
the kind of dream where your feet are stuck in the mud and going nowhere.
If this all sounds a bit implausible and arcane it's because it is.
'>>' gets a cautious thumbs up from me for imagination and sheer nerve!
on 8 August 2015
Lazy sounding in every respect, this sludgilly played and sludgy sounding album never really catches fire. Maybe it's not meant to, with half-baked instrumentals flubbling along under bored sounding vocals, maybe it's meant to be ironic sounding or something. If that's the case, I guess I'm just not cool enough to get it. I like my musicians to sound like they don't have complete contempt for me as a listener.
There's one or two decent tracks on this album -"Wulftan II" being a standout, mainly cause it sounds like Beak are actually trying with this one - but it's not worth more than one listen.
Being as how Geoff Barrow is one of the main men in this band, I expected more. But then I expected more of Portishead's last album too. And that just ended up sounding just like this dirge of an album.