Beck

Hyperspace

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Hyperspace is one of those Beck projects that came together quickly. At the conclusion of the supporting tour for 2017's Colors, Beck headed into the studio with Pharrell Williams with the intention of contributing to a new N.E.R.D album, but they wound up hitting it off. The collaboration ballooned from a single into an EP and, ultimately, the core of Beck's 14th album. Beck worked with a few other collaborators on the record -- Greg Kurstin, the producer of Colors, is credited on "See Through," Sky Ferreira sings on "Die Waiting," Coldplay's Chris Martin is on "Stratosphere" -- but the partnership with Williams is what defines Hyperspace, giving it its sleek retro futurism. With its layers of analog synths and drum machines, it's hard to escape the new wave trappings of Hyperspace, yet the album is devoid of nostalgia or irony. Such is Beck's sincerity, he winds up stumbling into territory pioneered by Todd Rundgren's Utopia, indulging in the shimmering electronic soft rock of "Chemical." Despite the frenetic rhythms of "Saw Lightning," "Chemical" is a better indication of Beck's intentions: he's making a sequel to Morning Phase in the guise of a synth record. It's a clever concept and the music itself is often clever, the strummed acoustic guitars getting blown out in waves of analog synth bliss. It's music for twilight contemplation, not so much a soundtrack for regret as soul-searching. To that end, Hyperspace exists on the same astral plane as Morning Phase and Sea Change, but it never feels as fussy or formal as those sad opuses. Chalk that up not to the electronic instrumentation but rather a light touch. Beck never lingers upon either his melancholy or his celestial flights of fantasy: they exist simultaneously, resulting in a tremulous and pretty soundtrack for moments of fleeting introspection.

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