Dusted Reviews

Beak> - >>

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Beak>

Album: >>

Label: Invada

Review date: Oct. 5, 2012

You’d think that Krautrock’s motorik beat — that simple, pulsing rhythm — would be a cold experience. The metronomic exactness should by definition become monotonous. Instead, when played right, motorik lends a driving breeziness to even the sparsest arrangement. And if you are playing it wrong, well … you aren’t playing it. That forward motion is a self-defining thing. A featureless 4/4 beat without that drive is monotony. Even though there’s a strict definition of the sequence of hits, the idea of motorik is as much about a feel, the animation of simple musical figures. No wonder it’s become one of rock’s standard rhythms.

It took a long time for motorik to become a fundamental part of the toolkit, even if it first crept in with the Velvets. For the last few years, it can seem like every album at the garage end of indie has had a track that consciously settles into the groove, the way hi-hat heavy Gang of Funk was everywhere a decade ago. And it’s served a similar signifier as disco-punk: a way for live-instrument bands to orient themselves admiringly towards the loops of dance culture.

Geoff Barrow has a long history of steering live instruments toward machine rhythms, and the last beat he created for Portishead, “Chase the Tear,” rode out straight for the autobahn. His projects since then, Krautrock trio Beak> and Anika, as well as his Eno-like makeover of The Horrors, all push pulsing trap drums into discordant arrangements. Beak> pushes hardest of all. The band records live in the studio, with untested ideas, creating the material quickly, words eked out between their playing, barely sung. Beak> leaves no time for the careful considerations that make Portishead so vast, even if both projects are soaked with lonesomeness. Here the empty vistas of Barrow’s primary gig are boxed into dioramas. The soundtrack electronics are scaled down to plastic two-note bobbles, back-and-forth bumps simple enough to survive their no-overdub rules.

Because the band works under such tight conceptual strictures, it’s not surprising that >>, their second album, sounds a lot like their first. It’s stronger, and that makes sense, too — Beak>‘s music depends on the chemistry of the moment, and now that they’ve had a few years together, the little shifts and turns they take have gotten sharper. Belying their veteran status, the formula does a lot to recreate the feel of early hinterland punk, the sort of Messthetics artists who found themselves in provincial recording studios, trying to reconcile their love of budget German imports and worn copies of Paranoid. It’s got an energy that’s usually associated with naiveté and learning instruments on the job. The trio knits their little hand-played loops together loosely, and in a certain light, there are places it unspools completely.

At the other end of the spectrum, “Wulfstan II” is a seamless walk through doom riffing, welcome-to-our-coven vocals, and kosmische keyboard noodles. It’s the intercontinental ballistic heaviness Liars go for, but more genuinely occult. You’d think it would be out of place next to the pleasant hum of neighbors “Yatton” and “Elevator,” but Beak>’s strong rhythmic identity ties the record together. It all clicks.

By Ben Donnelly

Read More

View all articles by Ben Donnelly

Find out more about Invada

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.