Mug shot: Matt Williams, Billy Fuller, and Geoff Barrow
I couldn't say how many Portishead fans follow co-founder Geoff Barrow's other project, BEAK>, but I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't much crossover. The difference doesn't just lie in the absence of singer Beth Gibbons, but in the lack of any lead vocalist, combined with the retro-futuristic Krautrock interplay.
Vocals actually appear often, but when they do, they melt into the mix. "Yatton," the first single, benefits from the gentle chanting that pervades the piece.
Vocals appear on five of the other 10 tracks, as well, but it's difficult to distinguish any words—the quasi-hauntological "Eggdog" features a particularly muted Damo-type mumble—so >> feels like an instrumental work, even if it isn't.
Overall, the Bristol trio's second LP recalls Can more than anyone else, which makes it less necessary now that there's vintage material from the Cologne outfit available for the first time in ages, though I hear a modern-day analogue in Soft Moon, even if BEAK> doesn't travel to regions that bleak, while "Wulfstan II" leaves the motorik rhythms behind for a Pink Floyd approach to psych-rock.
In fact, the more I listen, the less I hear Can. By the closing track, "Kidney," the three-piece, who recorded the record live in one room, sounds like a completely different band, i.e. more like themselves, less like their inspirations. So I don't give BEAK> high marks for originality, but for taste and skill, I give them an A+.
Invada releases >> on July 13, 2012. BEAK>'s world tour begins this October.