BEAK> - BEAK> <KAEB Split EP - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab


by Justin Pearson Rating:8 Release Date:2015-07-31

Portishead's Geoff Barrow and his side project BEAK> are no stranger to improvisation and minimalism. Their self-titled debut album saw the trio recording live over a 12-day session, giving the project a live, in-studio quality. The Krautrock label has been affixed to their name, but given their evolving nature - especially with this 'split EP' - it seems unfair to pigeonhole their sound into one specific genre.

The press release for this EP indicates the first two tracks are by BEAK> and the last two courtesy of their alter-ego, <KAEB, the latter consisting of an "ever expanding and floating membership". 'The Meader' embodies their familiar loose production technique, chock-full of minor chords, slightly out-of-tune guitars, and mostly undecipherable lyrics provided by muffled vocals. 

The noirish sense of mystery that cloaked their first two albums makes a wecome appearance on instrumental 'Broken Window.' It sounds like it could serve as a main theme for an 80s sci-fi/horror flick with its driving, somewhat dancey drum beat topped by a creepy guitar line.

The second, <KAEB half of the EP is where it really gets interesting. 'When We Fall' is the closest thing to a traditional melody they've ever done. Guitar and plaintive vocals add further weight to the track's mournful lyrics: "As we stand in line in the pouring rain where the mist settles down on us all/ with the sound of the children left behind makes us choke on our fear even more."

The chorus continues: "When we fall/ to the sea/ and we will be assured/ for what/ we believe/ can return/ to us all." The weeping strings near the end might seem depressing based soley on my description, but their presence is appropriate on a song as sparse as this, giving it a much needed support to keep it from complete despair.

The best, most interesting track is saved for last. 'There's No One' finds rapper Jonwayne expertly freestyling about stuff that doesn't really seem to go together, but nonetheless sounds as legitimate as anything that claims to have a theme: "She looks so innocent but God is a magician/ or maybe something more taboo with the puppet of my brain in this cabinet... Got my noggin' on tailspin/ I'm on the first spaceship outta here/ I'm too small to open my eyes."

He raps over rhythmic, Portishead-like drumming accompanied by ghostly, echoed vocals and a haunted-house organ that shows up at just the right moments to make your skin crawl. It's a bizarre combination of things going on, but that's exactly what makes it so compelling.

Even without the <KAEB alter-ego and changing membership, the BEAK> <KAEB split EP sees Geoff Barrow and company returning to the spontaneity they inhabit so well, and it proves that BEAK> is still an act worth following. Who knows what they'll do on their next full-length, but it will surely be attention-worthy, no doubt.

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