The raw materials that form Beast sound like they could only form something quite beastly: a talented Canadienne chanteuse who speaks no English but must rap in it, a composer/drummer singing for the first time, a Charles Mingus sample, epic choirs haunting insistent rhymes.
But Beast is no Frankenstein. Beast’s debut album is a refreshing addition not only to rock, electronica, or hip-hop, but to music as a whole. While many bands precociously claim new genres, Beast actually makes it work. Betty Bonifassi’s powerhouse, soul-inflected vocals lend a fierce sincerity to all they touch. Meanwhile, trippy acid beats create an apocalyptic soundscape jutted with fuzzy guitars and jaunty bass. The songs featuring Jean-Phi Goncalves’s vocals are surprisingly successful—perhaps his inexperience makes his delivery so full of anxiety and secrets. Tracks like “Dark Eyes” feature the two trading off vocals to form a perfect portrait of simultaneous decay and transcendence. This album might even be good enough to forgive Canada for Celine Dion, and that is saying a lot.
Erin Lyndal Martin
File under: Portishead, Lauryn Hill, Massive Attack