zondag 30 maart 2014

Morning phase. Beck

Beck (Hansen) by now has a twenty year spanning recording career of which I missed every single record. I hated his novelty hit 'Loser' and the snippets I'd heard from other records never brought me to listening more intensely to anything else. So why did I start listening to 'Morning phase'? I don't know, really. Probably because a review I read in the newspaper. This gave me the impression I ought to find my way on Morning phase. After listening just once, I knew my gut feeling was right. Morning phase is a pleasant album on the verge of singer-songwriter, country and pop of a darker variety.

For some reason it took Beck six years to release new material. Hearsay has it that he has three to four albums saved up. All covering different aspects of his musical spectrum. Beck apparently had this bunch of songs that he wanted to record with the same people he recorded an album with in the early 00s called 'Sea change'. This resulted in the relaxed atmosphere that Morning phase has. An album that seen from a positive side has beautiful songs on it, but seen from a negative side just continuous to murmur like a small brook streaming to the larger river. Most listenings to date tend to the the former appreciation, but when I'm not in the mood, there is just no end to Morning phase and I switch it off straight away.

Seen at face value it is hard to write an intrinsic review of Morning phase. The songs are all in a slow or slower tempo. Just above a Low record, a little more free flowing and accents that are more clear cut. Just listen to the chorus of opening song (if I put the instrumental opening aside) 'Morning', double layered harmonies that work very well. Add to that the electric piano that plays nice accents and some intricate guitar notes and 'Morning' shows enough variations to make the song a winner. This goes for most songs on Morning phase. The devil is in the details in the slow songs on this album and determine the difference between winning and losing. One song has a light psychedelic effect in the harmonies ('Heart is a drum'), another gets a more country flavour by adding a banjo ('Say goodbye') or slide guitar and harmonica ('Country down'). It really are these smaller details in the bigger picture that made me like this album more and more. And above all I love the piano playing on Morning phase.

Beck obviously aims for trying to find the most perfect changes in the songs. Those changes that make them sound so easy, as if they always were there. In other words the perfect pop song. That is the pop element in Morning phase, without the album having one single pop song on it. 'Blackbird chain' is probably the best example here, as does 'Waking light'. It all flows so magnificently, with all the right accents from the string section. Songs like this remind me of what Pink Floyd tried to reach at on 'The division bell', where Beck succeeds because he stayes close to keeping the songs basic and at a human level, instead of the super-human effects, drowning the Pink Floyd songs (or hiding the poor quality songwriting?).

So, perhaps I've missed or overheard something in the past where Beck is concerned, but I doubt it to be honest. I like Morning phase and that is enough for now. One of the reasons is that Morning phase comes very close to what Shane Alexander presents on his excellent record 'Ladera' and the question as to why I like Morning phase is explained to me a bit more.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Blue moon' here.

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