A tale of two albums
There’s a shift that many dedicated listeners go through as they begin to uncover more and more music. Lyrics begin to matter less and less whereas the overall sound of a project, and its ambition or cohesion, starts to matter much more than any single element. While lyrics are undoubtedly important parts of music, their inclusion in music seems tertiary in many cases, and far too often, wholly unnecessary when applied to experimental music. It is no surprise then that many experimental artists opt to go entirely instrumental, especially when vocal results are as mixed as they are on Beak>’s >>>.
At the outset, it seems pretty apparent what this record will be—a decent, interestingly composed experimental rock album that leans heavily into psych elements. Occasionally we see them brush up against more eclectic bands like The Flaming Lips, but it seems, at first glance, that that’ll be about all we can get from this record. “The Brazillian” opens up the record with a strangely spaced synth progression that seems like it would belong more at home in the line for Star Tours than anywhere else, though it does eventually turn into a more typical psych rock experience chock full of background whines and a desert-like riff composition on the top end of the track. Were this the album that we had received it probably would’ve been one of the better experimental rock records of the year, however, the album decides, often without warning that it wants to be something else entirely.
It isn’t until we reach “King of the Castle” after the excellent stretch of “Harvester” through “Teisco” that things start to go awry. “King of the Castle” is the first track that introduces vocals into the mix, and listeners are apt to quickly wish that they had never included them. Instrumentally the song is as sound as any other track preceding it, though they do begin to teeter slightly away from the joyous complexity of its predecessors, it’s the vocals that drag the track down. Each line is completely mumbled on both this track and “RSI” leading to a nearly indiscernible experience that adds nothing to the track and instead muddles the waters of what was shaping up to be an excellent album. The closing track “When We Fall” somewhat salvages the record, but even then it doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the album, even the two tracks with vocals. Instead, it is a far more folky track, and, comically enough, the one moment on the album where the vocal performance feels justified.
Sometimes when something works there’s no sense in tweaking it. >>> fits wonderfully into this adage. The album is good, and at turns excellent, when it decides to stay within its lane. All the issues arise when it tries to introduce a new element into their already perfect dish. Like a young cook hell-bent on experimentation over execution, they haphazardly throw vocals into the mix, forcing a sizeable chunk of an otherwise well-produced record to sound murky and amateurish. Oddly enough when they close the record with a vocal track that works, it is because they break entirely from convention, forcing themselves to find new combinations instead of throwing under baked elements on an unfitting canvas. There’s a lot of things to love on this album, but consistency isn’t one of them. It’s still worth a listen, but know that a few tracks will wind up on the skip list.