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Morning Phase is pitched as a companion piece to Sea Change, Beck Hansen’s 2002 break-up album. A depressive temper hangs over Morning Phase too; but it’s handsomely realised, the music a rich and resonant companion to Beck’s lugubrious vocals.

Bass and drums toll away while hints of 1970s folk and country emerge in slowly unfolding melodies; several songs were intended for an abandoned Nashville album. Amid the unhurried tempo, a strange mood grips the listener. Whereas Sea Change addressed the end of a relationship this one is enigmatically introspective, Beck singing about turning away “from the sound of your own voice” as though breaking up with himself.

I find it hard to disassociate this eerie sense of self-estrangement from the singer’s Scientologist beliefs, which appear to be encoded in the album’s centrepiece “Wave”, oppressive string arrangements swirling like a fog around Beck as he chants about isolation.

Beck

Morning Phase

(Virgin EMI)

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