Considering how meticulously crafted Portishead's albums are, it's no wonder that Geoff Barrow went in a less studied and, above all, faster direction with his other group, BEAK>. Together with bassist Billy Fuller from Fuzz Against Fuzz and keyboardist Matt Willams from Team Brick (both bands signed to Barrow's Invada label), Barrow recorded BEAK>'s self-titled debut in just a dozen days, recording all of their parts in the same room and eschewing overdubs -- an approach that's almost the polar opposite of Barrow's day job. On BEAK>, the trio jettisons Portishead's time-consuming detail for hypnotic simplicity; the only thing Barrow's groups share is a deeply moody atmosphere. These excursions are so dark and spare that they feel oddly timeless, as though they could just as easily come from some dust-covered, decades-lost cult album as from the 2000s. Krautrock is a major influence, and the band really knows its way around a Motorik groove, especially on "Backwell," which opens the album with a slow-building jam that dips in and out of minor-key territory. Throughout the album, Fuller's bass dominates, and the way Barrow and Williams play off of him shows that BEAK> knew what they were doing with their self-imposed limits. Yet BEAK> rarely feels limited in scope, especially when the band flirts with jazz on "The Cornubia" or lends "Battery Point" some post-rock grandeur with shimmering guitars. But for every moment that nods to accessibility, like these tracks and "I Know," which boasts tight drum and bass topped by a strangely vulnerable melody, there are two that underscore the band's experimental tendencies."Ham Green" moves from ghostly, slo-mo surf that recalls Clinic's early singles to a doomy onslaught from seemingly out of nowhere, while "Barrow Gurney"'s blaring electronics prove that the band doesn't shy away from being abrasive. Though the project's swift genesis reveals itself in a few tracks that feel like recorded jam sessions, at their best BEAK> are fascinatingly dour, and willing to challenge listeners in unexpected ways. ~ Heather Phares
Record Collector (magazine) (p.80) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "There's much to please fans of Stereolab, or even recent Sonic Youth..."
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