As we stand in line in the pouring rain…

It’s too late to do a “Best of ‘18” list now, isn’t it?

In any case, “list” might be stretching a little – at the moment, I’d only have two records on it.

Since Christmas, I’ve dabbled with a few things (narrowly missed losing my December downloads from Emusic…) but I’ve mainly listened to only a couple of records. And whaddya know, they’re both bone fide New records, not “new” but actually, genuinely released-in-the-last-twelve-months New. Oh yes.

Thought I’d celebrate my newly-regained cutting edge by doing a bit of a thing about one of them here…

BEAK>

(The other record, by the way, is the Surfing Magazines’ debut which is just great, but seeing as I’ve mentioned them en-passant a couple of times recently, I’ll leave them for another day…)

I’ve a feeling I’ve done something about BEAK> before (and I can’t believe I didn’t mention the “>” thing as well) – I remember being rather keen on all the Bristol landmarks in their song titles. But, characteristically, I may have dreamt this, so I’ll proceed, insensible, as if this is all virgin territory.

Anyway as any ninny knows, BEAK> are the current vehicle of omni-instrumentalist and studio professor Geoff Barrow and last September’s release was the band’s third record. Have a watch:

 

That’s a great video, no?

I love this song for its reedy resolve and the swelling, ballooning effects fanning from Will Young’s keyboard. It makes me think of that great first Suuns record and some of the Yeti Lane stuff (both of these two seem to have gone off the boil recently). I think this might be the first time, I’ve watched the band actually perform on video and I’ve got to admit I didn’t picture Barrow as quite the drummer he is, all wrists and groovy economy. Quite the Robert Wyatt figure (without the gimp mask, regrettably). The video is a bit Dr Who, but I’m on board to be honest, and in the best traditions, the whole thing’s larger on the inside than out.

“Allé Sauvage” is a great song but it’s only one of a cluster of punchy songs that elbow their way into your face, all beery belligerence and unwelcome persistence. “King of the Castle” and “RSI” are also belting songs – lots of period electronics and motorik dynamics forced up to 11. Storming, grim stuff.

I’m also very keen on the closing pair of tracks.

“Abbot’s Leigh” is absolute dissonance explored, tightly confined and barely controlled – horribly menacing, very Centre Cannot Hold and something for our times. Wikipedia tells me that Abbots Leigh, aside from being a village in Somerset, a few miles from the centre of Bristol (of course) is also the name of the tune that “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” is set to. All very pastoral and maybe a little folk-horror. Which is exactly what the second track of the pair, and closer of the record, “When We Fall”, had already made me think of. It sounds like something that might pop up on the “Blood on Satan’s Claw” soundtrack, amidst scenes of the sun rising on fields of corn and general rural idyll, (shortly to be horribly and irrevocably interrupted).

 

If you can be arsed, you can, of course, be justifiably sniffy and talk about how derivative BEAK> sound (can’t be denied, to be honest). But why would you do this? They are clearly a massive homage to Can, Klaus Dinger, Faust… but hey! Good spot!  Now get on, enjoy the commotion, stifle a shudder, turn it up. Who knows how long we’ve got?

We didn’t need to go into the sweetshop and have all those chocolate bars – we just needed Mars Bars and Snickers…

_img71671I’ve been sat out in the breezy sunshine, ambling contentedly through the John le Mesurier biography, when a small voice from somewhere within (slightly off-centre, it has to be said) prompted me to come up to the computer and do a little more sharing.

“Open your heart to the good PP readers…” it said.

Do you really think that’s wise?

Beak>

Actually I’ve been meaning to post something about this for a while, because I’ve had this pretty much on continuously in the car for the last couple of weeks. Missed them completely at the time, but Beak> have been around as a unit for a couple of years now and centre on the elusive talents of Geoff Barrow.

There’s no obvious resemblance, however, between the motorik charms of Beak> and Barrow’s more legendary achievements with Portishead. I did love the Portishead records with all their distraught gothic brilliance, but they do seem rather “of a time” these days.

This Beak> stuff though, (I’m already fed up of typing that silly “>” symbol), is a whole new thing, eventhough its touchstone is far more fixed in a particular age and genre. Turns out, Barrow is a big fan of Neu and the krautrock records of the seventies, not just the sound but the whole ethos of the time:

Actually this clip makes it clear that Beak> are not just a Geoff Barrow side-project, but a functioning unit of their own, and I reckon there’s plenty more to come from it. There are two records out as it stands – “Beak>” and “>>” – both of which are terrific – full of insistent, agricultural bass lines, searing synthetics and mumbled scarcely-coherent vocals. And now I really have the taste for this…

Would love to see this lot in the flesh…