The 14th album from Beck, and first since 2017’s double-Grammy-winning ‘Colors’, shows the LA-born artist on top experimental form.
Its title ‘Hyperspace’ captures the album’s otherworldly soundscapes: all heavy synths, eclectic beats and emotive vocals. But beneath the sense of carousing carefree through a starry sky is a darker tone, as Beck lyrically grapples with the pain, grief and disorientation of the breakup of his 15-year marriage.
In trademark style, it’s a genre-melting pot, with hints and flecks of influences from across the spectrum from synth-pop to R&B to funk to blues. Plus this time round he’s called upon the talent of Pharrell Williams – alongside contributors Paul Epworth, Greg Kurstin, Sky Ferreira, and Terrell Hines – whose penchant for minimalist production and songwriting input is evident on 7 of the 11 tracks. It’s a collaboration 20 years in the making – and evidently worth the wait.
The lead singles provide some of the record’s standout moments: ‘Uneventful Day’ is all psychedelic vibes, cryptically hinting to us, “You might know my name, but you don’t know my mind” while the beautifully-crafted ‘Dark Places’ feels melancholic and introspective, revealing, “Some days I go dark places in my soul.”
Spacey ‘Stratosphere’ is blissfully transcendent, helped along by the recognisable voice of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, but in reality tackles the trauma of a friend overdosing: “Needle to the spoon / Strike a match and let it breathe,” and warns of the temptation of allowing escapism to let you drift: “Halfway to oblivion.”
‘Star’ has a satisfying gutsy bass driving it forward as it conveys the feeling of falling for someone, “She’s got the light in her eyes / And the blue from the sky / She’s crossing my mind / Better hold on to myself.” Meanwhile the anthemic ‘Everlasting Nothing’ seems arena-ready with its soaring backing vocals and bittersweet sentiments: “Nowhere child keep on running / In your time you’ll find something / In the everlasting nothing.”
While at times the impossible blending of all and everything means some songs virtually implode – ‘Saw Lightning’ with its unpredictable combo of military-style beats, bluesy harmonica and slide guitar edges being a case in point – in most cases the playful kaleidoscope of sounds succeeds in sending its listener on a delightfully trippy adventure.
Overall, it’s a glittering, multi-sensory synth-pop record that compels you to let yourself be transported through cosmic dimensions and the rich, textured under-layers of Beck’s creative psyche.
Words: Sarah Bradbury
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