Beck’s collaboration with NASA is beautiful universal exploration

Beck album by Fonograf Records
Fonograf Records/Courtesy

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Alternative star Beck isn’t one to shy away from eccentric displays. These are usually found only in his music, such as his inclusion of dissonant vocals and backward tapes on Golden Feelings or his talented melding of hip-hop, grunge and folk on Odelay — until now.

On his latest endeavor, the artist worked with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to turn his 2019 album Hyperspace into a glorious sensory experience, complete with satellite and telescope images of space’s wonders. Though Beck made a slime visualizer for his 2017 song “Colors,” this is the first time he’s produced a comprehensive visual accompaniment to a full album. Hyperspace: AI Exploration debuted Aug. 12, and the record is more than fitting for this avant-garde musician.

Hyperspace: AI Exploration serves as a way for listeners to escape reality, and it truly conceptualizes this goal with stunning images of galactic spectacles. The videos accompanying each song are flowing interpretations and combinations of NASA data created through artificial intelligence, or AI, making a unique and fascinating feast for listeners’ eyes and ears.

“Hyperlife” kicks off the video series and is also the first song on the original album. Featuring bright, AI-reimagined photos of Earth taken from the Landsat 8 satellite and the International Space Station, the viewing experience is heightened by Beck’s gentle, fuzzed-out delivery, mimicking an out-of-body psychedelic trip. Since it’s a slow, dreamy song, the visuals would have matched the calm atmosphere better had they transitioned smoothly, rather than abruptly switching from one vivid image to the next. 

The next installment, “Uneventful Days,” is much more cohesive, the images changing with each synth note or drum beat. Beck’s rich vocals and the instrumental hints of trap influence provide a powerful backdrop for the distorting AI images of the moon that were taken from Apollo missions. Similarly, “Saw Lightning” and “Chemical” boast trap elements that fit surprisingly well with the majestic images of Mars and Saturn, respectively, melting in tune with his voice.

“Chemical,” along with “Die Waiting,” also crosses over into dreamy territory with Beck’s soulful voice and increasingly trippy visuals. “Die Waiting” displays solar flare movements in slow motion — set to ironically relaxing music, a dazzling phenomenon of erupting gas scatters across the screen.

However, the visuals don’t just stop at our solar system; Beck’s songs are also set to other extraterrestrial objects, such as exoplanets and nebulas. The singer brings out the big guns in the last few songs, which sport 3D visualizations of Hubble Space Telescope data, swirling black hole simulations and supernova animations. It’s these uncommon images and normally unwitnessed phenomena that properly capture the otherworldly aspects of Hyperspace: AI Exploration.

Beck has shifted from only incorporating acoustic folk and old-school hip-hop to including aspects of modern rap and EDM, all of which make an appearance on Hyperspace. The musician’s eclectic musical style serves as a metaphor for the vast diversity of outer space, and Beck has again asserted his prowess as a groundbreaking artist.

The original, already spaced-out album perfectly suits the mesmerizing AI-generated NASA edits. The album makes for a relaxing, atmospheric exploration, allowing listeners to see space in a new way as they are guided by delicate synths and Beck’s soothing voice. 

The unique part about the visual album is that the images aren’t just raw photos of space that can be pulled from the internet. Each graphic is distinctly created from pictures and data to form beautifully cascading colors and space visuals. The images may look small on screen, but listeners will have no trouble feeling immersed and taking in all the projected vastness. As Beck sings on “Dark Places,” “It’s two in the morning, I’m so in the moment.” Not only is this the ideal time to view and listen to Hyperspace: AI Exploration, but it’s also the ideal mindset to fully indulge in this dramatic visual soundscape.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.