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CD: Beck - Morning Phase | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Beck - Morning Phase

CD: Beck - Morning Phase

Can Mr Hansen's new one live up to the hype?

Beck: wafting in on floating chords

One of the unwritten rules of pop music is that a surfeit of talent doesn’t necessarily lead to the most affecting tracks. The rhythmic complexity of Beck’s 2008 opus Modern Guilt, was, for instance, undeniably unemotional. And then there was his 2012 release, simply a book of sheet music called Song Reader. Morning Phase, however, is a different matter. As the hype and press releases rightly claim, it really does hark back to his most lovely work, 2002’s Sea Change.

Like its predecessor this is not a record of exceptional moments, rather one of sustained ethereal meditation. Now, however, that feeling of being amongst the ghosts of heartbroken cowboys has been replaced by a mood that, we are told, is consciously “Californian”. But how can a record have both a specific place and time of day?

It manages it though, despite the atmosphere being beyond anything the listener is likely to experience: Morning Phase is about being wide awake at dawn full of hot thoughts, that are calmed by sea air and the smell of pine needles. The rich harmonies evoke the heart of LA, yet the frequently sparse lo-fi arrangements take you away from the palm trees to a place of very real sorrow. The lachrymose “Don’t Let It Go”, for instance, brings to mind “No Distance Left to Run” by Blur. On “Blackbird Chain” Mr Hansen moans, “I’ll never, never, never, never, never, never refuse you”.

And while the narrator’s stream of consciousness is invariably wafted in on floating chords, the effect is also one of heightened reality. This is underscored when the sound palette moves on from West Coast into pure ambience. “Unforgiven” and “Wave” feel like they could be the offspring of William Orbit and Sigur Ros.

Might Morning Phase, then, actually be a better album than Sea Change? Somehow the idea of being competitive seems anathema to their very nature. Both are albums to lose yourself in when you are feeling lost.

Overleaf: watch a video on the making of Morning Phase

 

This is not a record of exceptional moments, rather one of sustained ethereal meditation

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

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