For his latest experiment, musical scientist Beck has teamed up with Pharrell Williams to produce the electrical and psychedelic Hyperspace; an emotive record dipped in gooey cosmopolitan synth-pop to remind the masses of the star’s incredible genre-binding career.
Inspired by the recent divorce of Beck’s 15-year-long marriage, Hyperspace explores themes of heartbreak, loneliness and self-realisation not too dissimilar from his earlier albums (think Sea Change, Mutations). The difference lies in the production, which is owed entirely to Pharrell Williams and Beck himself. Perfectly blending notes of the past and present together, an adoring sense of the future is curated amidst rolling percussion and squeaky synthesisers. And while it’s clear to see the magic Williams has provided in the pop production, Beck’s stand-out emotional vocals are what really shine the most.
The album starts off with the floaty intro ‘Hyperlife,’ a beautiful blend of instrumentals and vocals that really set the tone of the entire album, before tumbling right into the hit ‘Uneventful Days.’ The album’s second single brings a particularly positive and bubbly beat, despite being about the boring day-to-day routine of living in darkness. Then we’re falling into the whirlpool of lead single ‘Saw Lightning,’ a song that couldn’t really sound more Pharrell Williams if it tried. The producer’s trademark ad-libs and bouncy beats are accompanied by his playing of both the drums and keyboard while Beck pays homage to his earlier janky guitar notes and gruff vocals.
Tracks ‘Die Waiting,’ ‘See Through,’ ‘Stratosphere’ and ‘Star’ are the only ones not produced in partnership with Williams and it’s clear to see the influence of Beck’s discography. Combining elements from experimental records such as Modern Guilt (2008) and Colors (2017), the tracks almost feel cosmic and help to transport us to a moment in time in Beck’s mind, which is perhaps the purpose. And the heavenly ‘Stratosphere’ features backup vocals from Coldplay’s Chris Martin, helping to turn the track into the perfect mix of early indie grooves with a Pink Floyd euphoria.
‘Everlasting Nothing’ ends the album on a somewhat sombre tone. Beck is caught in a time of self-reflection, mulling over the downfalls of life but still trying to see the best in it all. It’s the perfect way to end his just-under-40-minute story, and his raw vocals are complemented well with Williams’ bopping beats. In what just might be one of his most vulnerable songs, Beck sings “I woke up in a movie / Didn’t know if it was my whole life / When it ended, I laughed before I cried,” and it’s then that the album’s hypnotic themes really start to make sense. Just like every other, Hyperspace is a conceptual record and we’ve just caught a glimpse into the open wound that is Beck’s broken heart. And due to the juxtaposition between the bright production and emotional lyrics, we too don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. So maybe we’ll just journey through it one more time.