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Beast
Beast
Verve Forecast
www.beastsound.net


Every once in a while an album comes along that forever changes a genre, elevating it to a new level, transcending the genre's previous limits. P.M. Dawn, Tricky, Skold, Curve… all of these bands have taken their respective genres and broken the rules, creating something distinct and amazing in the process. On my first listen to Beast's debut album Beast, it is evident that the Montreal-based duo has taken trip-hop to a new level, incorporating hip-hop intensity, R'n'B/soul grooves, trip-hop atmosphere, electronica instrumentation, and even a bit of gospel's beauty.

Beast is Betty Bonifassi on vocals and Jean-Phi Goncalves performing all instruments, programming, and additional vocals. The band's music runs the gamut from rougher hip-hop rhythms ("Devil") to low-slung trip-hop grooves ("Arrow") and all the way to Portishead-esque spy themed spooky, dark pop ("Ashtray"). Betty Bonifassi's vocals oftentimes reach a gritty earthiness reminiscent of golden era jazz vocalists like Eartha Kitt, but with a tough edginess that is more inline with modern music and hip-hop. The music provided by Goncalves is very often reminiscent of the biting trip-hop of early Tricky, filled with strong backbeats and eerie synths that make more musical sense than the majority of modern pop. The vocals and music intertwine wonderfully, each playing off the tension built by the other to create something larger than either would be on its own. Trashy drums and stark basslines are in abundance on Beast, the songs have a power and sound that drives home the modern world while the lyrics reflect on society and all its ills. "If the sun vaporized one day/and the moon just faded away/would we still keep going on/ at this speed of a maddening pace?" While much of the music on Beast is tense and driving, there are moments of more laid-back grooves, like on the ambling and beautiful "Dark Eyes", a track that alternates between Bonifassi's beautiful chanteuse and Goncalves rough-etched rhythmic rap.

Come to think of it, this album hearkens back to the glory days of young electronica and the inimitable duo of Vince Clarke and Allison Moyet when they were better known as Yazoo. The same pioneering spirit and unique sound-building elements exist in both duos, the same lyric inspiration and vocal intensity. Beast should appeal to anyone in the mood for something new and driving, yet intimate and somehow eerily familiar.

-David DeVoe

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