Beak> – Self-Titled

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews


Self-Titled - Invada Records

I don’t typically listen to slow instrumental electronic indie.  Normally, I prefer lyrics with my music.  So in order to review Beak>’s self titled debut, I had to leave that comfort zone.   After a little bit of research it became clear that Beak> was being received quite favourably by those who enjoy the genre.  I tried understanding, I really did, but to paraphrase Blink 182, I just couldn’t “feel it.”  I thought to myself, “Cole, is there something wrong with you?  How can you be so narrow minded!”  But then I realized, I’m reviewing for “the punk site,” not “the slow instrumental indie site,” what’s the point of pretending to be something I’m not?  After all, I’m sure the website’s readership will feel quite similarly about something so very left of centre.

From this perspective, I can safely say that the Bristol three-piece’s debut is a slow and often mystifying experience.  The album consists of twelve remarkably similar tracks occupying the better part of an hour.  Drumbeats, electronic organs, synth blips, and the occasional guitar chord or bass groove tend to dominate most tracks.  Rather than vocals, the only trace of humanity comes in the form of slow muffled background moaning.  This odd technique alone will probably deter most people not already on board with the genre.  Furthermore, each track plods along at a grueling pace – kind of like those critically acclaimed seven-minute Animal Collective tracks where, as far as I’m concerned, nothing really happens – only occasionally filling the entire soundscape with more conventional instrumentation on tracks like “Battery Point” and “Action Point.”

Personally, the album felt like a moody walk through a haunted house in a suspense movie.  The opening track, “Blackwell,” opens with the sustained heartbeat-like thumping of a synth beat.  At this point I imagined a protagonist entering the front doors of eerie mansion.  Dimly lit and dark, the sound of an organ starts down the hall.  As our hero advances, suddenly the serenading sound of howling specters can be heard emanating from within the walls.  Undeterred, our protagonist advances.  Suddenly the movie’s soundtrack enters an inquisitive montage state aided by steady synth scales.  Banging can be heard from deep within the house.  Our hero ventures further into the darkness as the track fades out.  The journey continues into the next track, eventually resulting in what I like to call “the ghostly encounter” occurring two tracks later on “Ham Green.”

While my understanding of Beak> might sound narrow, short sighted, and illinformed, the point is that Beak> is far from a starting point for anyone but the genre elite.  This is the type of album that will find critical acclaim by those reviewing slow instrumental indie professionally and on a daily basis.  It’s not the type of album your typical reviewer at the punk site can just jump into and endorse – even with the benefit of a week or two of listening that feels very unrealistic.  This review and its score reflect that fact and that fact alone.