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Every few years Beck does the decent thing and releases an album of haunting acoustic tracks, usually when he’s had a relationship break up or is in the middle of some kind of crisis or other.This album seems to have come following several wilderness years for Mr Hanson where he’s done pretty much everything but release a record. It all bodes well for a mid career classic.
The lead single off this album ‘Blue Moon’ is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a long, long time. Its an utterly gorgeous few minutes of melancholic heartfelt joy; his voice plaintive and yearning over a folky acoustic rush of guitars and Kate St John style oboes. Opener ‘Cycle’ performs a similar trick, stating with a Robert Kirby style string arrangement, a plodding acoustic guitar heralds Beck’s voice which is high and helpless, swathed in beautiful reverb. It is a fantastic sound which elevates to a glorious chorus full of layered vocals.
‘Wave’ is another standout. Comprising solely of a lonely reverbed vocal and haunting string arrangement, the track marks out new territory for Beck, recalling music as disparate as Arvo Part and Massive Attack, it culminates in the repeated phrase ‘Isolation’ - a bleak windswept piece of melancholy it is unlike anything else in his catalogue. Elsewhere several tracks flit by in a pleasant but on first listen ineffective manner and there’s a worrying flirtation with Elton John style dynamics on closer ‘Waking light’ and at thirteen tracks the album feels a little long.
Its definitely going to take a few more listens to reveal its secrets but if you loved his earlier ‘Sea Change’ or have been charmed by the West Coast grandeur of Jonathan Wilson and the new Laurel Canyon troubadours, you are going to find much to enjoy here.
8/10 coffin dodger Customer review, 25th April 2014
This week's 'radio coffin dodger' will mainly be playing Mr. Hansen's, above, new cuts. Slotted somewhere in between: Triptides; Thee Oh Sees; Warm Soda; T' Eagulls; T'Real Estate; T' Unsemble; Winter North Atlantic; and classic BoC (for t' embryonic electronica weirdos) with Ty on great T-guitar breaks and T' Beachboys for the more elderly tuner-in-er. Sadly, but withholding apology, the DJ recognises that most listening stations will not have the reproductive capabilities necessary to do justice to this fine album's breadth, depth, and sonic soul-scope, to say nowt at all about its encompassing twang of/on contemporary musical mores - hell's teeth there's even a banjo in there. Ahh well...t'lad's getting on a bit...otherwise I'd go for a 9. Side A, last track, 'Unforgiven', thoroughly tests the bass integrity of my JM lab's. Fortunately they, the French fuckers, lap it up...as do I. Buy vinyl or remain ignorant...your choice.
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