Beak>, > >
As wholly unique as it is undeniably retro
Geoff Barrow, the producer and composer of Portishead, is a master craftsman of period-specific atmosphere. > >, the second release from his Beak> project, hearkens back to the heady late-’60s/early-’70s period when hippie optimism had given way to a druggier, more ambivalent view of the future. Adding a bit of Black Sabbath’s pummeling murk to the tweaked robotics of German sound engineers Neu! and Kraftwerk, Barrow has once again created a work as wholly unique as it is undeniably retro. Eerie opener “The Gaol” suggests a long-dead factory coming back to life on its own terms, spitting out a warning siren as robots and conveyor belts start whirring, while “Spinning Top” evokes a wobbly toy powered by Newton’s 2nd Law and Can’s 1971 space-jazz opus Tago Mago. Like electro-psych primitivists Silver Apples, this is music best represented not by waveform, but oscilloscope read-out, with rhythmic patterns suggesting the steady movement of hydraulic pistons. Or, on the druid-metal highlight “Wulfstan,” the deep imprints of a mysterious creature’s feet as it treks back to a remote mountain cave. That’s the scariest part: despite its shop-tooled exoskeleton, this thing’s got an animal heart.