Monday, July 30, 2012

Geoff Barrow Has Been Busy: BEAK>, Quakers, Drokk

There's no doubt Geoff Barrow (of Portishead fame) has been an extremely busy man in 2012. March saw the launch of his Quakers hip hop project and more recently, he has released the second effort from his krautrock band BEAK>. He had also mentioned that a new Portishead album might not be too far behind. Each project is an intriguing and ambitious endeavor that you can sample after the jump.

The awkwardly named >> is a real treat for krautrock connoisseurs as it aptly borrows from Can while still forging a path of its own. BEAK> combines elements synonymous with krautrock like buzzing analog synthesizers, squawking bass, and hypnotic percussion to create a truly entrancing experience. The trio of "Yatton", "Spinning Top", and "Eggdog" showcase the best of their ability to create funky grooves mixed with a spattering of late 60’s and early 70’s psychedelia. The synthesizers on "Ladies' Mile" and "Wulfstan II' establish an eerie atmosphere and sound as if they were plucked from the score of an old John Carpenter film [more on why this makes sense coming later].

Quakers is a hip-hop collective that features 35 members and revolves around three producers: Fuzzface (aka Geoff Barrow), 7-Stu-7 (Portishead's engineer), and Katalyst (an Australian hip hop producer). The MCs featured in this project are both unknown and big names coming from the underground. The record is an exhausting 41 tracks long (!) but if you are looking for a place to start, the videos they have released so far are a great launching points to this ambitious project. The single "Fitta Happier" places Guilty Simpson and M.E.D. against a marching band version of Radiohead song "The National Anthem" with immensely enjoyable results. There are a lot of other great moments to discover such as the warbled funk of "Smoke" and "Russia with Love" or the grimey, tough urgency of "Jobless". The whole package is a must hear for fans of the Stones Throw catalog.

For those who don't know, the word "drokk" is a made-up sci-fi expletive often uttered by perps when they’re apprehended by Judge Dredd in Earth’s future Mega-Cities from the comic 2000AD. Here it is a collaborative soundtrack project with Geoff Barrow and composer Ben Salisbury, a fellow Bristolian who has scored several Hollywood films and BBC series. This collaboration came about in the early stages for the upcoming film Dredd when Barrow and Salisbury were approached to compose a score. Using vintage analogue synthesisers, the pair have created the perfect ode to retro-futurism; think a seamless mixture of classic Giorgio Morodor (Midnight Express), John Carpenter (Escape from New York), and Vangelis (Blade Runner). The score was scrapped from the film; however, in The Skinny, Barrow explains that there were no hard feelings. I guess it turned out well for both parties, as the movie is gaining buzz and apparently it's current soundtrack by Paul Leonard-Morgan lends to the success.

Last but not least, let's not forget this awesome post-Third Portishead song:

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