Having been a fan of Portishead for over a decade. When I heard that the production half of the iconic trip-hop duo, Geoff Barrow, was coming through town and performing with one of his side projects, Beak>, I jumped at the opportunity to attend. Barrow has several projects on his resume including his work with Portishead, production on Massive Attack’s breakthrough album, Blue Lines, and several other projects in multiple genres including Beak>. The addition of Billy Fuller on Bass and Matt Williams on keyboard and the both alternating on drums really works.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from the show, given that I had never experienced a live krautrock show in the past, but was a fan of Beak>’s catchier songs such as “Yatton”, “Liar” and “Blagdon Lake”. I am a fan of intimate venues like Bowery Ballroom, and after experiencing the show my opinion is that an act like Beak> feeds on crowd intimacy like a ravenous wolf.
I arrived to the show as Barrow started strumming the first chords of “Yatton” and it felt as if I was creeping into a cocoon fashioned from layers of guitar, analog synth and dim lighting. This is the type of show that does not lend itself to wild dancing, but does lend itself to a musical journey similar to a boat ride through Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Lighting for the show was another piece of the overall experience as the presentation seemed to be arranged to draw the audience a half step deeper into the overall performance. There was a dim air to everything. The band was backlit instead of illuminated with spotlights. This left the audience leaning in to discern muted details on the silhouettes of the band. The only active visual during the performance was a projection of various images that would fluctuate between a series of images picked for each song that mirrored the psychedelic aspects of performance.
The experimental guitar, that Barrow and the Fuller layered, as well as Barrow’s own haunting vocals had a slow smoldering build over the course of the show. These elements including bouts of intentional feedback gave the show a high degree of intensity and consuming controlled cacophony that really worked well. In fact, it worked much better than their studio recordings. The quick interludes between songs were a nice breather, as Barrow, Williams, and Fuller would offer some nonchalant banter to let the audience’s brain relax and process the experience before diving back in.
If you appreciate thought provoking music, and have a desire for a musical journey that lands somewhere between rock and keyboard driven electronic music, Beak> has a perfect experience to offer.
This post originally appeared on Electronic Nightlife, now a part of beatcue.