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Boomkat Product Review:
Clearly on the lookout for a change, Beck Hansen for the time being ceases collaborations with producer Nigel Godrich in favour of Danger Mouse, who supplies a fresh angle on the idiosyncratic songwriter's craft. From the beginnings of 'Orphans', Beck's sound is noticeably streamlined, having a close run in with the aesthetic of '60s beat groups, Dangermouse's simplified mushed up approach occasionally presenting the illusion that he's working in mono - certainly there are points in 'Gamma Ray' where you'll be led towards thinking everything happens in the dead centre of the mix. These sorts of strategies all help to refresh the Beck sound of recent years, and are put to particularly excellent use on early single 'Chemtrails', which features some formidable drumming and wonderfully spaced out vocals from Hansen. The title track instantly shifts the tone of the album in the direction of a more contemporary sound, thanks to an overheated backbeat, but despite featuring strings (as arranged by Beck's father, David Campbell) and plenty of vocal multitracking, this still all sounds very much stripped down and straight-forward. One of the album's standouts, 'Walls', features one of two supporting vocals from Cat Power (the other being on that opening track, 'Orphans'), plus a pivotal sample lifted from Paul Piot and Paul Guiot's 'Amour, Vacances Et Baroque' (which some of you may recall from the tracklist of Barry 7's Connectors). It's another example of the subtractive effect Dangermouse has had on Beck's work, and that makes for a not unwelcome change, allowing the intrinsic elegance of laid bare riffers like 'Profanity Prayers' to flourish and lending the more epically inclined tracks - like the orchestral closer 'Volcano' - a real sense of robustness. Highly recommended.