Beck: Hyperspace (Capitol) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, February 23rd, 2020  

Beck

Hyperspace

Capitol

Nov 22, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Beck Hansen is one of popular music's great documentarians. The talented multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and production wizard pulls from his vast toolbox at will, reflecting the music landscape surrounding him with Tarantino-like precision and intrigue. While Beck typically ping-pongs between unique variations of pop, folk, and rock with each project, Hyperspace is a close sibling to its predecessor, 2017's Colors. Co-produced with Pharrell Williams, Hyperspace leans into Beck's hip-hop fascinations, this time trading the soul samples of his past for mellow SoundCloud rap trends of the 2010s.

It's a sound he's experimented with before on the flute-looping Colors highlight "Wow." Here, Beck's psychedelic pop is accented by Lil Uzi Vertian ad-libs, Migos-like Slap ChopTM flows, and Post Malone-esque stoner vibes, all held together by Pharrell's signature punchy beats which propel the record through its druggy haze. However, where "Wow" was an exciting blend of production maximalism, many of the hip-hop-inspired tracks on Hyperspace are missing that...wow factor.

"Die Waiting" could be mistaken for a Coldplay/Post Malone collaboration with its repetitive hook, mix of acoustic guitar and floating synths, and ticking hi-hats. Like much of the record, the music is pleasant, yet inoffensive. Early tracks "Uneventful Days" and "Saw Lightning" offer more faithful representations of Beck's impressive ear for production, filling every crevice with ASMR-inducing textures and inviting us, like Willy Wonka, into his psychedelic playhouse.

It's fitting that Beck takes a maximalist approach to songcrafting on Hyperspace, as he muses over societal (and personal) excess. "Faster, farther, longer, harder/I just want more and more," the album begins on the dream-like "Hyperlife." Obsessions with limitless craving, whether relational or material, drive us into boredom, malaise, and discontent throughout the album's early songs. This in turn drives Beck into hallucinatory nihilism for the most of the album's second half where chemical love (or love of chemicals, not sure which) takes him on trips to "Hyperspace," the "Stratosphere," "Dark Places," and well, just "so high."     

By the album's end, Beck is so tired of chasing "more and more" that he gives up on meaning, agreeing with the writer of Ecclesiastes that all is indeed vanity, an "Everlasting Nothing" where we run, toil, build relationships, and ultimately find our own meaning through it all. However, Beck's postmodern plea, like the music itself, isn't compelling, as though he couldn't care whether you listen to him or not. Instead, he shrugs and floats on, searching for a new place to land. (www.beck.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10



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