When Clipd Beaks raged onto the scene a few years back, critics instantly lumped the Oakland-based three-piece into the HEALTH-y school of rhythmic, monochromatically abrasive noise rock — the L.A.-centric flavor of the moment that was all the blog rage at the time. It was an easy but patently unfair comparison; where the zillion bands emerging from The Smell scene seemed fixated on being as manic and aggressive as possible, the Beaks seemed to possess something pure and underlying, an understanding of texture and melody that set them at arm’s length from their SoCal compatriots. To Realize, the superb sophomore full-length from the band, finds them wholly embracing what was once merely hinted at.
At the crossroads of dissonance and harmony sits To Realize, a dark and swirling cloud of post-punk-inspired atmospherics. Every song on the album feels like a puzzle, with waves of feedback, blasts of horns, and crashing drums acting as inscrutable pieces being assembled one by one until a picture eventually emerges, giving you just enough time to understand and appreciate it before it’s taken apart and a new one is started. It’s this kind of controlled chaos that Clipd Beaks really specialize in.
If there was such a thing as an auditory grab bag of seemingly unrelated sounds, Clip’d Beaks’ To Realize would be that bottomless sack. The long-awaited follow-up to the noise-rock group’s 2007 Hoarse Loads EP, To Realize is a rambunctious experiment in dissonance that steadily builds in chaos rather than energy. To Realize starts off with a soaring yet simultaneously ominous cacophony complete with never-ending drone, and remains that way until the more upbeat “Broke Life.
Clipd Beaks have been specializing in decidedly damaged post-punk since 2003, their wares a far cry from the black tie Joy Division reheating that started to fog up the landscape at about that time last decade. Instead, over the course of three tremendous releases, they've churned out bruising, noise-splashed sounds à la Liars circa Drum's Not Dead. Their interest seems to have lain more in making sonic sense of chaos, a hypnotic form they've fleshed out further on To Realize, their second full-length effort.
When Clipd Beaks emerged from the Oakland post-post-punk scene earlier in the decade, they set themselves apart from brethren in bands such as No Age, HEALTH, and Abe Vigoda by utilizing a sobering blend of experimental sound layering, melodic drone, and psych-jazz overtones into the herky jerky rhythms of the scene from which they arose. On the group’s latest album, they streamline their unique sound into something spacier and more Western influenced, as if someone dropped a tab of Ry Cooder blotter acid into their collective beer. To Realize is a cool, noir-ish fusion of several disparate styles blended together to create a sonic vision that expresses a great sense of growth in one of the most promising acts the West Coast has to offer.
I first encountered Clipd Beaks when they rolled into town to perform a South by Southwest-like show with fellow noise rockers Mika Miko and No Age. Established at a club that no longer exists, it was a two-story hole-in-the-wall that creatively set up each act to start and end consistently. Mixed in with three other bands that were all travelling by, it still ranks in my mind at least, as one of the most successful ‘indie’ shows put together in my town.