In a sentence:
While it reaps more rewards in its pursuit of being at the cutting-edge, neither Beck nor collaborator Pharrell Williams truly stretch themselves on ‘Hyperspace’.
shapeshifter whose nearly three decade-long career has seen him swerve from indie/hip-hop
hybrids to sultry R&B, indulgent funk and heartbreaking alt-folk, Beck arrives
at his 14th studio album with the all-but-explicitly declared intention
of forcing his way back into the pop mainstream. Colors, released
two years ago, was one of his most straightforward albums in terms of sonic ambition,
and its follow-up, Hyperspace, follows much in the same vein, with seven
of its 11 tracks co-produced and/or co-written with big-hitter Pharrell
Williams. Where Colors didn’t really know where to go with its multitude
of ambitious pop ideas, Hyperspace is at least more successful in
exploring them, even if results aren’t consistently out of the top drawer.
MORE: Beck // ‘Odelay’
at 20 years old
the pleasing haze of on-trend sounds, slick beats and Beck’s trademark
eclecticism is a sense of deep turmoil, rooted in the collapse of Beck’s
15-year marriage, which comes more apparent in the album’s second half that
consists of low-key acoustic guitar-based tracks. In the main, Hyperspace benefits
from stripping back its predecessor’s sense of kaleidoscopic clutter and feels
much more ruthlessly singular in its focus, as its first six songs fly past in
a dazzling sequence reminiscent of the dizzying highs of his much-celebrated
1996 masterpiece Odelay.
Following the brief, wordless intro of ‘Hyperlife’, the luxuriant yet maudlin single
establishes the core mood of Hyperspace and also represents the album’s central
identity crisis – a sighing sense of twilit regret set to up-to-date electronics
and modern beats. At best, it throws up interesting results; at worst, it feels
contrived and forced together.
body-popping funk of ‘Saw
Lightning’, released several months back and seeing Beck rapping to scattershot
slide guitar, is by far the most energetic moment on here, and the contrast
between it and ‘Uneventful Days’ in the tracklisting is the kind of wild
juxtaposition that often made previous albums such a joy. Sky Ferreira’s guest
vocals dovetail well with his on the silky ‘Die Waiting’, while the trap-style
beats and acoustic guitar mix of ‘Chemical’ yields interesting results. But Hyperspace
begins to drag in its second half, starting with ‘See Through’, as it
settles down into a succession of downbeat moments that kill any momentum that
had been built up, and from here on the album is pleasant, but much less
interesting, the gospel-tinged finale of ‘Everlasting Nothing’ aside.
sees Beck’s pursuit
of being at the bleeding-edge of current trends pay higher dividends than his
last outing, but you’re left with the unmistakable feeling that neither Beck
nor Pharrell have ever truly stretched themselves at any point. Everything is
in the right place and sounds lovely, but it never elevates itself into anything
inspired. (6/10) (Ed Biggs)
Listen to Hyperspace by Beck here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Beck, Capitol, Ed Biggs, Fonograf, Hyperspace
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