By: Jake Murray

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Released on July 31, 2015 via Invada

When BEAK> unveiled themselves to the world with their début album in 2009 I just couldn’t get it. Long-time fan of krautrock from Neu! to Can and everything Faust, I just couldn’t understand what it was that didn’t sit well with me. Then, inexplicably, when BEAK>> was released I understood BEAK> and their music really clicked, but I still don’t find myself playing their debut much even now. Perhaps it was teething pains on their side as they crafted their sound through the two records? Perhaps I’m just a nitwit who doesn’t know good music when it slaps him in the face with a kipper? Through two albums, a Bandcamp release of jams and offcuts, BEAK> have proved to be one of the most interesting not-side-projects around, and although a bit of a mixed bag, continue to push the envelope of weird broken-sounding strangeness on an audience that might otherwise be completely unreceptive or closed-minded.

This month BEAK> go fully meta with a “double- b-side” [errrr…] split release with, well, themselves under the moniker side project within the band, featuring Johnwayne’s vocals on the EP’s closing song ‘There’s No One’, and released on Barrow’s own label Invada. It’s an interesting exercise if nothing else highlighting the utter futility of obsolete formats in a digital age; people throwing around EPs, singles and A-Sides like they mean anything in a world of single-track streaming, so kudos to the guys for a funny joke, and for releasing whatever the fuck they like whenever and however they like (the excellent Beak>> Bonus Tracks + is also a testament to this). In a time of insatiable musical hunger it could be argued the best tactic today is to just give the hungry hungry hippos more content to consume and not to worry about whether it’s an EP, LP or a bunch of bananas.

So, side A (B?) of the double-B-side self-split EP… let’s just call it the BEAK> side, is what one would expect from the three-piece’s more recent work. ‘The Meader’ is a warbly quirk with a kick-ass drumbeat and a slobbery entrancing atmosphere. Much like a lot of the recent off-cuts album it’s hypnotic and catchy in a too-much-morphine-at-the-circus kind of way. Annoyingly, just as the song beings to really ramp up someone kicks out the plug and you’re left hanging. ‘Broken Window’ sounds less of a BEAK> song and more of an off-cut from Barrow’s stunning 2000AD-inspired DROKK project, with a krauty organic twist. Smoggy analogue synths straight out of Blade Runner float heavily and swell in the air over a steady rhythm section. Once again, just as it’s getting really interesting someone falls asleep on the mixing desk’s master fader and the song crawls away with a Pink-Floyd-fadeout. Perhaps BEAK> aren’t fond of the way they end songs? Or perhaps they just prefer to keep fuller, expanded/improvised jam endings for shows? Who knows?

The <KAEB side is likely to be what divides opinions most with this release. ‘When We Fall’ is charming 60’s homage that holds a striking resemblance to Caribou’s ‘Melody Day’. Lyrically the song holds the same gentle and illustrative imagery as Mark Mulcahy’s beautiful ‘All For The Best’ and the sombre vocal delivery almost perfectly echoes Thom Yorke’s equally beautiful cover [I realise none of these comparisons are actually from the 60’s]. Delicately carried along by a warbling guitar and lifted in the chorus with mellotron strings, the song is a true breath of air amidst the other three rhythm-heavy, stifled and reverberant songs. Finally is the utterly bewildering ‘There’s No One’; a bizarre marriage of BEAK> at their most experimental and introverted, and Johnwayne’s directionless spoken-word. Geoff Barrow is arguably responsible for some of the most significant developments in the entire history of hip-hop music thanks to the reach of Portishead and the impact of the Bristol trip-hop scene today. It’s hard to deny that… perhaps impossible. But this, that can only be compared to Saul Williams at his most experimental, or MF DOOM fronting The Doors, is the strangest merge of rap and weirdness, and is truly difficult to access or understand. Perhaps, as with some earlier BEAK> it just goes right over my head, so you’re most certainly encouraged to suck it and see with this one, oh reader.

BEAK> are one of those bands that came from nowhere out of the dark, and at times seem to prefer it there. Their music is best enjoyed in the dark and at times even leaves their listeners in the dark too. For better or for worse (a matter that is truly down to personal taste once you’re this far off the charts) one thing is for sure: it’s never fucking boring. While not necessarily for everyone, die-hard fans will no doubt find it a great addition to their record collection, or Spotify playlist [pfffffffffft].

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