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Album Review

Considering how meticulously crafted Portishead’s albums are, it’s no wonder that Geoff Barrow went in a less studied and, above all, faster direction with his other group, BEAK>. Together with bassist Billy Fuller from Fuzz Against Fuzz and keyboardist Matt Willams from Team Brick (both bands signed to Barrow’s Invada label), Barrow recorded BEAK>'s self-titled debut in just a dozen days, recording all of their parts in the same room and eschewing overdubs — an approach that’s almost the polar opposite of Barrow’s day job. On BEAK>, the trio jettisons Portishead’s time-consuming detail for hypnotic simplicity; the only thing Barrow’s groups share is a deeply moody atmosphere. These excursions are so dark and spare that they feel oddly timeless, as though they could just as easily come from some dust-covered, decades-lost cult album as from the 2000s. Krautrock is a major influence, and the band really knows its way around a Motorik groove, especially on “Backwell,” which opens the album with a slow-building jam that dips in and out of minor-key territory. Throughout the album, Fuller’s bass dominates, and the way Barrow and Williams play off of him shows that BEAK> knew what they were doing with their self-imposed limits. Yet BEAK> rarely feels limited in scope, especially when the band flirts with jazz on "The Cornubia" or lends “Battery Point” some post-rock grandeur with shimmering guitars. But for every moment that nods to accessibility, like these tracks and “I Know,” which boasts tight drum and bass topped by a strangely vulnerable melody, there are two that underscore the band’s experimental tendencies.“Ham Green” moves from ghostly, slo-mo surf that recalls Clinic’s early singles to a doomy onslaught from seemingly out of nowhere, while “Barrow Gurney”’s blaring electronics prove that the band doesn’t shy away from being abrasive. Though the project’s swift genesis reveals itself in a few tracks that feel like recorded jam sessions, at their best BEAK> are fascinatingly dour, and willing to challenge listeners in unexpected ways.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A trio crafting dense and atmospheric music inspired by dub, Krautrock, and the Beach Boys, BEAK> feature Portishead producer/multi-intstrumentalist Geoff Barrow, bassist Billy Fuller, and keyboardist Matt Williams. Fuller and Williams are also members of Fuzz Against Junk and Team Brick, respectively, both bands that are signed to Barrow's Invada Records imprint. The trio got its beginning at a jam session during Invada's 2008 Christmas party, then began playing as BEAK> early in 2009. They recorded...
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