French doom-beat producer Gesaffelstein‘s sophomore album Hyperion is here (March 8). It’s a means to expand his sonic universe, with elements of R&B, pop, disco and goth all covered in the Frenchman’s anxious, midnight shadows. There are some big features, from previously-released tunes with The Weeknd and Pharrell Williams to new ones with HAIM, The Hacker and Electric Youth, but it’s the producer’s sinister touch that gives the album it’s true charater and keeps us interested throughout.
It starts very purposefully with a short, heavy, repetative synth note, then adds to his simple beat with layers of synthesizer sound. It’s got a retro ’60s quality to it and a definite cinematic attitude. This is the title track, and it’s excitingly different tone, though, once it fades, we dive straight into the darkness of lead single “Reset.” This is the Gesaffelstein fans expect; menacing and metalic with a gangster lean.
Next comes second single “Lost In The Fire” featuring The Weeknd, Gesaffelstein’s take on soul-pop R&B. It’s fat bassline and funky rhythm gave the producer his biggest radio hit to date, and it’s followed by more experimental, instrumental bleakness. “Ever Now” builds and swirls like smoke billowing toward a blood-red sky. It gives way to the previously-released Pharrell Williams feature “Blast Off,” which fits more into the vibe of the album’s overall context than when it was released as a one-off.
“So Bad” featuring HAIM gives the California trio a huanting vibe over a trudging ballad beat. “Forever” featuring The Hacker and Electric Youth puts an ’80s synthwave shimmer on crushed velvet goth sensibilites, only to explode into techy sonic madness.
The album closes with three very Gesaffelstein instrumentals, from the foreboding horror mood of “Vortex” to the very Stranger Things-esque “Memora,” culminating in nearly 11-minute epic “Humanity Gone.” The final track is a long lament, a syth-organ funeral dirge with moments of heightened feeling and a little neo-noir sax. It certainly seems Gesaffelstein is ready for his big film soundtrack break.
All in all, Gesaffelstein’s sophomore album is good. His general tone creates a sense of cohesian, even if it its tracklist feels experimental and at times a bit disjointed. It plays like a moment of growth leading toward something else to come, like Gesaffelstein stretched his creative muscles to see what new directions he could reach. It turns out he can do pop-crossovers and theatrical scores equally well, and he’s daring enough to put both those very different tones on the same 10-track collection. It’s almost like he’s daring the industry to accept his strangeness, and that kind of I-do-what-I-want attitude is welcomed here. Now it’s up to the fans to make it what they want.
Gesaffelstein is scheduled to play Coachella 2019. We’re seriously intrigued to see production the artist has in store. We hope the unfolding tale of Hyperion will continue on stage. Listen to the album below, out on Columbia Records.