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Beak : I I

BEAK>> cover art

For a man more used to working at a – shall we say – leisurely pace, Geoff Barrow has certainly been putting the hours in lately. After averaging an album every eight years with Portishead (three long-players since 1994), the producer has just doubled that total in little over three months with debut full-length releases from his hip hop crew Quakers and synth-centric soundtrack project Drokk, and now a second album from Beak, the Krautrock trio he formed in 2009 with Fuzz Against Junk’s Billy Fuller and Matt Williams of Team Brick. As impressive as those other 2012 offerings have been, >> is Barrow’s best work since Third, and one of the finest approximations of the music of Germany’s highly influential avant-rock forefathers since their ’70s heyday. To many outside of its homeland, Krautrock can be divided into one of two camps – Can’s rhythmic, experimental psychedelia, and the polished glide of Neu! – and here Beak do fine impressions of both: “Spinning Top” finds Barrow mumbling Damo Suzuki-esque mantras over a martial groove, “The Gaol” lurches woozily, “Liar” and “Elevator” marry rattling Jaki Liebezeit-inspired drumming to proggy guitars and proto-rave synth freak-outs, whilst “Yatton,” with its one-note synth, muted guitar, Hooky bass throb and propulsive Dinger-beat sounds like the imaginary lost nugget that gave James Murphy the idea for “All My Friends.” Elsewhere “Eggdog” and “Ladies’ Mile” nod to the genre’s more ambient, synth-based side, but it’s when they channel their other great love – the heavy-as-hell droning doom-rock of groups like Sunn O)) or Earth – that the trio really get to spread their wings: “Wulfstan II” and the closing, seven-minute “Kidney” sizzle and swell like Sonic Youth or Mogwai at their most intense, growling bass and slow-burning solar-flare guitars rubbing against each other and sparking real fire. Recorded in a single day with very few overdubs, >> is the sound of a band very much in tune with one another, overflowing with ideas and energy. Those holding their breath for Portishead’s return can relax: Barrow’s current purple patch has produced more than enough essential new music to keep us going ‘til 2015.

 >> is out now on Invada Records and can be streamed in full (via the group’s Bandcamp page) below.

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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