The briefest way to sum up Beak> is that it’s Geoff Barrow from Portishead’s krautrock worship band. On >>, the trio’s sophomore album, Barrow really emerges as a sort of krautrock auteur: nearly every sound on here can be traced back to something already done by Can/Neu/Faust/etc., but with contemporary production values and keyboard flourishes that make >> sound current, and not just a mere retreading of ideas several decades old.
Barrow’s drum patterns often veer from straight motorik to nuanced repetition (best witnessed on “Spinning Top” and the towering minimal rock monolith of “Wulfstan II”), which gives >> a constant sense of movement, however circular. The stoic, distanced vocals of Barrow and bassist Billy Fuller may leave some Portishead fans yearning, but it’s important to remember this is a different band, despite Barrow’s presence. Admittedly, >> is a fairly narrow record in scope, but it scratches a distinct itch that many contemporary rock bands ignore; as such, it’s definitely not a record for the impatient or those who require easy hooks, but my ears are finding >> to be a most pleasant surprise. It may be genre worship — the album probably won’t cause any listener revelations — but it remains a solid work from a trio with an erudite understanding of its niche.