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Review: Beak Are Bigger, Bolder, Breakbeat-Centric on Cinematic Third LP

The UK band, which includes Geoff Barrow of Portishead, takes influence from Can, Brit-folk, funk and chilly soundtracks.

beak

Hollin Jones

Over the course of their first two albums, Bristol, England trio Beak> synthesized a a handful of elements from across the vintage moodscape and murkiverse: the minimal throb of Young Marble Giants, the relentless rhythms of Neu!, the squinchy electronics of Silver Apples and the muffled vocals of Can among them. In short, it was a great way to turn cratedigger obsessions with psychedelic breakbeat music or Eighties synth soundtracks into a working, touring, motoriking rock band.

Best known for having Portishead’s Geoff Barrow as member, they started as a fragile, semi-improvisational recording project averse to overdubs. But in the nearly nine years since they released Beak>, the band has toured around the world growing in both renown and ambition. Barrow has become a formidable drummer and his record label, Invada Records, has become a hotspot for the new generation of retro soundtracks: They’ve released both Drive and Stranger Things and Barrow has been part of a co-writing team that’s made music for Ex Machina, Black Mirror and Annhilation. Beak> themselves provided a gaggle of tracks to be the soundtrack to 2015 art film Couple in a Hole.

Their third album >>> is, by all measures, their boldest: vocals are emerging from the swamp, drums are getting downright funky (check out the incredible bongo breaks of single “Brean Down”) and the once minimalist trio is now open to string arrangements. It would be a surprise if film music didn’t influence its stew of dead-eyed jams. “Allé Sauvage” feels like a mix between Blaxploitation and giallo, “The Brazilian” is like John Carpenter with fuzz bass and closer “When We Fall” could be the pastoral Brit-folk nightmare for another Wicker Man reboot. Cold, weird, retro and ready for a chase sequence.

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