BEAK> are back with their third inimitable slice of warped, rhythm driven weirdness. Following on with their trademark naming convention, >>> sees the grizzled Bristolians (Geoff Barrow of Portishead, Will Young – the one from Moon Gangs, and Billy Fuller) up their game and bring a certain wobbly precision to bear, capturing the current mood of political misgivings and creating a soundtrack to society’s fears in the process. Of course, that soundtrack might not be one to bung on at a children’s party but sitting alone, existentially gazing into a shepherd’s pie, it’s dead on.
The band’s output has been quietly gaining recognition in the music press, with Marc Riley hosting a live session recently on BBC Radio 6 and the album coincides with a UK tour in November.
Opening instrumental, The Brazilian, with its doom-laden bassline and Geoff Barrow’s stop/start beat, sets the perfect tone for the album, somehow managing to furrow in an unexpected mid track fade out. Towering recent single Brean Down shifts and shuffles, chewing out pithy lyrics within a compressed, dampened vocal. This time around, BEAK> have managed to crystallise their experimental side into something rich and layered. It’s unusual and challenging without appearing forced or inaccessible.
Birthday Suit paints a quietly uneasy organic soundscape, pulsing keyboards that ebb and flow like an alien life support machine. This is proper head music, beautifully constructed with layers of melancholic rage that will keep you off balance for the duration.
The good thing is, when the band decide to dial back the woozy sensibility of the record, they conjure up sweet, two chord ballads like Harvester that grab the attention with something Ty Segall might have written. Well, after someone had just let down the tyres of his tour van.
Elsewhere, the album midpoint is given over to Alle Sauvage, a seven minute, synth-driven chase scene that drools out tape yelps and serves as a rip-snorting, musical palette cleanser. BEAK>’s Heart of Glass for a shitty day. Yet, nothing is by the book here. Tracks are constructed to jolt a response, deliberately working against your equilibrium.
RSI stands out with its breathless, chugging rhythm working against swirling synths and the jazzy, nightmarish instrumental Abbot’s Leigh (in keeping with the band’s penchant for Somerset place names as song titles) could easily be an outtake from Berberian Sound Studio.
Arpeggiated album closer When We Fall is like the lights being turned on after a scary movie. Borrowing from Portishead’s The Rip mixed with a vocal hat tip to Django Django, it’s a wistful, orchestral end to a genuinely interesting and off kilter musical journey.
BEAK> might just be saying maybe it’s ok to be scared – as long as it’s not for ever. There’s always hope after the darkness.