A four-song EP is not going to satisfy your need for more Beak>, but rather make you want more even sooner.
What did we do to deserve a new Beak> EP? The krautrock-loving trio, led by Portishead/Quakers maestro Geoff Barrow, is known to take their time in between releases, which lead to a six-year gap between their last two releases. Last year’s >>> was an addicting treat and perhaps the band’s best to date, but received with the sadness that comes from knowing that we’d likely have to wait several more years to see the band again. Life Goes On, a four-song EP, is not going to satiate your need for more of the band, but rather make you want more even sooner, a dangerous game for Barrow and company to play if they aren’t going to put out >>>> (as it will undoubtedly be named) sometime very soon.
It should come as no surprise that Life Goes On feels cut from the same cloth as >>>. Opening track “Life Goes On” announces itself with the distorted voice of a small girl speaking in some foreign tongue before sliding into the same scuzzy tones that scratch the same itch “Brean Down” did, which slowly begin to sound as though they’re coming through a blown speaker. “We Can Go” begins to match that tone but its ominous intro proves to be a fake-out before transitioning into a slow-burner, Barrow’s voice buried in reverb. It’s the same atmosphere as “Harvester,” but without the growing doom that made that song secretly compelling.
It takes until the third track, “Minus Pillow,” for the band to slip into something a little more comfortable. Here’s where their original krautrock aims return to the scene, Barrow’s voice now so robotized that they’re incomprehensible, as though they were processed and the recording played through a tin can. It’s the best of the three largely because it’s the only time where they lock into a groove, and it’s gone far too quickly.
The EP closes not with a new track, or even Beak> themselves, but with Bosnian accordionist Mario Batkovic covering >>> highlight “Allé Sauvage.” While the inclusion of a cover could come off as padding, reskinning the track further reveals how tight the band’s compositions are. Batkovic’s version is two minutes shorter and never gets the chance to sink its teeth into you the way the original does, but as far as padding for length goes, there’s hardly anything to complain about.
Even though these songs are good, only “Minus Pillow” leaves an impression, and largely only accomplishes this by being weird enough to jump out at you. Beak> have always been fairly deliberate with releases, but this EP ends up feeling like something closer to bonus tracks from >>> rather than something able to stand up on its own. Life Goes On feels like the sonic equivalent of a sample at an ice cream shop: no matter how tasty it is, it’s just not as satisfying as a whole scoop.