By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A wildly experimental Bristol, UK-based project put together by Portishead mainstay Geoff Barrow and Robert Plant/Massive Attack bassist Billy Fuller, electronic-rock trio Beak> returns to San Francisco for the first time in five years for this show at the Independent.
Formed nearly a decade ago, Beak> initially featured Barrow and Fuller working with electronic producer/synth player Matt Williams (who records under multiple aliases including MXLX, Fairborns and Team Brick). The band modeled their approach to music after the modus operandi of pioneering krautrock minimalists Can, recording live performances in a room together and then crafting and arranging songs out of the raw sonic material through edits with no overdubs.
The band released its first self-titled effort on Barrow’s own imprint, Invada Records, as well as on singer Mike Patton’s Ipecac Records label in the U.S. late in 2009. Tracked over the course of twelve days, the trio produced a set of haunting, cinematic tunes, heavily influenced by gothic dub heard on the Bauhaus’ epic “Bela Legosi’s Dead” and the synth-based horror soundtracks of John Carpenter while being propelled by Barrow’s spare motorik drum rhythms.
The following year, Beak> would collaborate with British-German political journalist turned singer Anika (full Annika Henderson) for her own dub-inflected avant-rock album on Stones Throw Records that featured originals written with the band alongside covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono and the Kinks. In 2011, both acts would perform at All Tomorrow’s Party festivals held on both sides of the Atlantic.
Barrows would have a particularly busy 2012, releasing the sprawling debut of his hip-hop project Quakers that featured over two dozen guest MCs and a collaborative pseudo-soundtrack project Drokk: Music inspired by Mega-City One recorded with film music specialist Ben Salisbury in addition to the sophomore album by Beak>. The record, appropriately entitled >>, continued the band’s exploration of pulsating menace and minimalism.
After a round of touring, the trio would go dormant for a time, but reconvened with electronic musician Will Young (who records and performs under the moniker Moon Gangs) taking the place of Matt Williams in 2016 to record a handful of new pieces for the soundtrack to the film Couple in a Hole that was mostly made up of previously released material. Since then, Beak> has released several new singles leading up to Invada Records and Temporary Residence issuing >>>, the trio’s first full album of fresh tracks in six years.
Adding moments of bright melody and delicate textures to the band’s brooding sonic template (particularly on the bouyant “King of the Castle” and the elegiac album closer “When We Fall”), the new effort marks the trio’s most eclectic effort yet. Returning to the U.S. for the first time since 2013 ahead of an appearance at Desert Daze in Southern California, Beak> take the stage at the Independent Wednesday night. Along for the ride is Cube, a surprisingly funky stoner-rock outfit from Greece that has joined Beak> on this tour.
Beak> with Cube
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m. $25