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Gesaffelstein - Hyperion (Album Review)

Monday, 18 March 2019 Written by Milly McMahon

When Kanye West recruited Gesaffelstein to produce on his iconic ‘Yeezus’ LP a little over five years ago, we watched as a powerful new energy was awoken in the French producer. Soon after, he translated that into the menacing power of his debut, ‘Aleph’.

‘Hyperion’, his second album, takes an entirely fresh approach to maintaining that dark intensity, while exploring deeper, more wide-ranging sonic territories. Where 'Aleph' induced a sense of impending dread, blaring out intimidating, howling tech climaxes, album two elevates the mood to a more human level, while still sharpening its edge.

Grouped together at the tail end of proceedings, Vortex and Memora encapsulate the way that the Lyon native’s relentless high octane rhythms can be compelling and entrancing.

Inducing a calm, present state of mind, in its best moments Gesaffelstein's music feels as though it has a chemical effect on the brain, stimulating yet strangely soothing. 

Humanity Gone introduces something entirely new for the composer—morbid, grandiose tones that speak mournfully of a murky underworld. Previously creating the soundtrack to Maryland, a thriller from 2015, the art of storytelling through music has clearly affected Gesaffelstein’s creative process. That is tangible throughout the journey of the 10 tracks 'Hyperion', and the theatrical elements to his sound are illuminated more brightly than ever.

On the album’s weakest track, Blast Off, there is a disappointing turn towards big-money hitmaking with an underwhelming feature from Pharrell. An ongoing collaboration between with the Weeknd is rekindled on Lost In The Fire, too, and although the sound is full and sexy, the aesthetic is more fitting of the R&B singer's style and so jars slightly here. By way of contrast, Haim's vocals on So Bad are a standout moment and successfully spotlight a more dynamic edge to the sibling trio.

It’s on the title track that we find Gesaffelstein in his element, though. Stripped to nothing more than an urgent synth, we see his most impressive production capabilities and ambitions in their raw form. Here is an original, strident perfectionist who painstakingly dedicates himself to his craft—in this moment his vision is truly uncompromising.

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