BEAK> – ‘BEAK>’ – Album Review

Following the ethnic slur that coined the new genre of experimental music that marched drudgingly out of Germany circa 1960, ‘Krautrock’ did well to soundtrack the mechanical existence of a country still in recovery. An amalgamation of Anglo-American post-psychedelic jamming and moody prog-rock mixed with contemporary experimental classical music and freeform jazz that eluded from the Berlin divide, the likes of Tangerine Dream, Faust, Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! did well to orchestrate an epoch that was the antipode of Britain’s “swinging” decade, with one that was ruminated with feeling following social deconstruction and liberal construction following the war.

Its influences have more recently come into commercial contact within such acts as The Horrors, giving them a surprise change of direction and critical kudos compared to the style over content of their debut; however, much of what was created would not have been produced had it not been for Portishead’s Geoff Barrow being on hand as an influential guise and guru.

Barrow has made no secret of his love for the genre, shoehorning it seamlessly into the trip hop ambience that undulates from Portis’ releases; however, his new project with fellow Bristol-based musicians Billy Fuller (Fuzz Against Funk, Massive Attack, Robert Plant and Malakai) and Matt Williams (Team Brick) under the name of BEAK> swells with its informed influence: something that is dissonant and eludes to esoteric arrangements.

For the 11 years that it took Portishead to record their highly anticipated third album (aptly titled ‘Third’), it took BEAK> 12 days to record their eponymous debut album, the pace of which being down to the strict guidelines dictating the writing and recording process. The result of which is the sum of its parts: musicians emancipated from musical structure and concerned with the assimilated texture and propagation of experimental sound.

From the doom-laden “Dundry Hill” to the low-key kraut croon of “I Know”, ‘BEAK>’’s jam-based manipulation of sound and structure is a defiant step away and contrast to the extreme perfectionism that one would associate with Barrow’s previous works. The off kilter vocal/organ swirls that swell beneath the droning bass of ‘Pill’ will be hard to swallow for many, but for those willing to give the album time will see where ‘Iron Acton’ pays tribute to the genre and era that formed it along with much of The Horrors latter day work.

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