Beak IIAlbum | Beak> By Phillip Mlynar
Portishead producer's pared-down post-rock project
Geoff Barrow, the producer behind British trip-hop troupe Portishead, is in prolific form at the moment. Having dropped the underground hip-hop outing Quakers back in March, and the 2000 A.D.-themed DROKK project with composer Ben Salisbury in May, he's now blessing the world with the second installment of his post-rock Beak> enterprise. And like anything Barrow turns his hand to, it's a woozy experience that wins by layering up the atmospherics and submerging the listener in the groove. Clocking in at a svelte ten tracks, the album kick off with "The Gaol," an instrumental workout that sounds like its main riff was created by a warped sample of a police siren. Balanced against slinky drum patterns and a rolling bassline, it's indicative of the album as a whole, as Barrow and cohorts Billy Fuller and Matt Williams muster up low-key grooves that start with the tenets of hip-hop production but then take things in a hazier direction. So "Spinning Top" may feature hushed vocals layered over the beat, but its nagging keyboard motif makes it sound like something you'd expect to hear an M.C. popping up on. It's this idea of paring things down and embracing the idea of creativity through subtraction that defines Beak II. Barrow's work for Portishead will always be most synonymous with his name, but the burgeoning Beak> series suggests some of his smarter sounds can be found away from the spotlight.