When he exploded in 1993 with his brilliant single Loser, Beck was rather ahead of his time with his fusion of acoustic blues/folk and hip-hop beats. In its wake he unveiled an even wider palette with his album Odelay, mixing sexual funk, psychedelic rock, salacious country blues, old school rap and flashy easy-listening, all interspersed with samples from Van Morrison, Mandrill, Mantronix, Sly Stone, Dick Hyman, Edgar Winter and Lee Dorsey. Later, he indulged in a more classical folk-rock style with his beautiful album Sea Change.
At 49 years old, Beck is no less innovative, this time sharing the task with a five star co-writer and co-producer: Pharrell Williams. Initially, the duo only planned to release a single, then an EP, then finally eleven tracks which ended up beocming this album: Hyperspace.
While Beck is an expert in sophistication with bountiful ideas, Pharrell is more of a refined, minimalist type. Beck opts for the second approach here. The result is a stripped-back sound drenched in melancholy, largely due to the beautiful ballads, both delicate (Stratosphere) and electric (Everlasting Nothing).
The Californian plays the role of the relaxed hedonist (like on the sugary smooth track See Through), as well as toying around with auto-tune (Uneventful Days) and letting himself be carried away by a pop wave with a light groove. And to keep his fans happy, Beck stays true to himself right from the opening track, Saw Lightning, with a slide guitar, a rap beat and a vintage microphone.
The real strength of Hyperspace is that it does not try to turn the album into a hit machine - something that one might have expected from a Beck/Pharrell collaboration. And throughout this crazy pop-soul-rap-folk-rap-R&B-rock record, everything is much more subtle than it seems.