Following the release of their second album >> earlier this year, Geoff Barrow and co. offer yet another beguiling morsel of improvised, one-take experimentation.
Mono is engrossing and provoking; whirling synths and intrusive drums immediately grab your attention. Meanwhile, indistinct vocals that drift in and out and a twitchy bass line give Mono an undertone of paranoia and malice. These aspects all subtly weave together to create a dense collage of noise. As the track progresses the tone becomes even more menacing, as insistent synths and wailing vocals are piled on top of the already compressed mixture. By the end, Mono sounds like a ramshackle ambulance screaming through the streets at night. There is no obvious song structure as such, just progression, but that’s what Beak> is all about: throwing stuff at the wall and seeing if it sticks. This is experimentation in the truest sense of the word - something which is rarely this enjoyable.
Mono may come across as simplistic, but that would be undermining its minimal and almost primitive appeal. There are no pretensions of complexity and it is through its simplicity that Mono, and much of Beak>’s music, achieves its hypnotic quality. It draws you in, and once you’re hooked that’s it. On the first listen, Mono doesn’t sound like anything particularly special. But it stays with you and the more you listen to it, the more you get out of it. On about the third listen I became utterly engrossed, and therein lies my only problem with Mono: Beak> are not a band to make up your mind about on first listen. Their music is concretely dense and almost obstinately inaccessible. You need to work at it and find a chip to crack into, but once you do the rewards are worth it.
Beak> may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you enjoy minimalist electronica with sincere experimentation then you’re going to love Mono.
Mono will be released on 7” format through Invada Records on 10th December, or you can listen to it on Soundcloud here.