20th May | SWX
Photos: Michael Brumby
Wandering into SWX can often be a daunting affair. As one of Bristol’s most modern venues, its design and grandeur can be truly captivating. I can only imagine the pride a band may feel, to not only grace this stage, but also to enjoy a sell-out show on their own home turf, not to mention on a Monday night. If any band deserves this, it’s Beak>.
Kicking off proceedings, we’re introduced to the fantastically-monikered Autobitch and their idiosyncratic brand of tribal folk-poetry, at least I think that’s what you’d call it. All in all, the outfit’s genre boundary isn’t worth discussing as much as their contagious comedic appeal. Perhaps it’s the Scottish wit seeping into hilarious tales of construction workers’ lunch habits that generates this two-piece’s endearing charm or maybe it’s the brilliantly simple alliance of pounding percussion and droning accordion. All I’m certain of is that this is one of the most fantastically weird twenty minutes I’ve ever enjoyed and I’d sign up again in a heartbeat.
Autobitch’s charming oddness is swiftly followed by a more calculated sketch of the same muse. Snapped Ankles limp from the darkness, draped in foliage and fur, into a forest of murk and moss. Their visual artistry is admittedly impressive, though I can’t shake the feeling that the band are trying a little hard to be avant-garde. Personally, this becomes a little disingenuous and its execution results in more Mighty Boosh than The Blair Witch horror I feel they had aimed for. Musically, their electronic krautrock progressions do hold some water, at times peaking into impressive punk-laden heights. Though unfortunately, bar the odd synth-wave splash of colour, the set becomes a little formulaic and beneath the garish art-house visuals lies a rather predictable auditory experience.
Finally we arrive at Beak> and the air of jubilant triumph is palpable amongst this crowd of old friends and new. Stripping the stage back to its bare bones, the band drift into a world of creeping atmosphere with Geoff Barrow’s alluringly dry kit fluttering and skirting beneath phasing rays of analogue synth. The sound design from the band’s engineer is the first thing that blows me away.
Barrow’s small scale kit offers a mesmerising click in its low-end with his open-handed snare rolls dancing into flourishing echoes in the rafters. Billy Fuller’s bass adopts an equally impressive presence, tessellating seamlessly into the space around every rhythmic cue. The auditory highlight, in my opinion, is the range of deliciously sun-bleached synths wielded by Will Young that ebb and flow like meandering elephants, creating an ominous and loping bed of warmth and wonder.
Aside from the music, Barrow treats us to some living-room banter between tracks, painting a picture of a man content with his standing in life. Graciously humble in his words and with a smirk of Dad humour, he repeatedly thanks the crowd for stopping by even if they might be a gang of ‘old farts’. Ribbing on the Gloucester Road gentrification that exists entirely separate from his vantage point on the city it’s clear the band are delighted to stand where they do and especially in this city that gave them life. Closing out the set with a new track, it would seem Beak> still have much to offer and I for one am grateful for that knowledge.
See the video for ‘Brean Down’ here: