Having recovered off the back of last year’s return of the eponymous Portishead – with album Third and subsequent touring duties – the multi-instrumentalist and producer-cum-record-label-owner Geoff Barrow is back with a new project. Famed for being one-third of the aforementioned and celebrated trip-hop group, he has just released his latest offering to the world as part of his new project Beak>.
The self-titled record sees Barrow in collaboration with Billy Fuller and Matt Williams of Fuzz Against Junk and Team Brick, respectively, both outfits being signed to Barrow’s own Bristol-based Invada Records, the label on which Beak> was released.
Recorded over a period of only 12 days and in one room, Beak> is effectively a lengthy live studio recording that is presented as is. With little post-production – including no dubbing or relaying – the record is a credit to all three members’ musicianship to sound as tight and polished as it does. An album of experimentation of sorts, it’s the polar opposite of the lengthy process of writing and recording a Portishead album – a breath of fresh air for both Barrow and listeners alike?
The record presents a tasty mix of instrumental, electronic goodness that sways effortlessly between Kraut-influenced drones and lengthy shoegazey repeated melodies and rhythms.
Each track seems to bring something new to the experience, and with every listen, more discoveries further still. Whilst there are recurring themes, such as the echoed vocal elements of opener “Backwell” and “Iron Action,” a steady driving rhythm also acts as its backbone. The apparent limitless direction of its recording style plays a major role in its overall sound. Beak> experiment with the (tried and tested) jamming method of making music and present a raw yet most enjoyable listen.
“Battery Point” is a clear standout track, but not just for being the longest, at just over seven minutes. It is a mythical, swirling masterpiece, building ever so slowly with its sweet sounding delayed guitars accompanied by Barrow’s minimal drum beat. Through headphones, this track will send you spinning and yearning, waiting for the release that never really arrives before its fade, and yet somehow it allows for complete mental relaxation.
A refreshing record for sure, Beak> is at points a challenging listen and at others beautiful and astonishing. Without distraction, its psychedelic vibe takes over, literally painting pictures and getting right inside your head and twisting your brain. Upon the ending of finale “Flax Bourton,” you’re back in the real world and it’s rather disappointing – so spin it again?