Beck is contributing three new original songs to the music-oriented video game Sound Shapes, an announcement today that fits in perfectly with Beck's recent release habits. Three full-length, unreleased tracks from the shape-shifting Los Angeles singer, rapper, and songwriter, titled "Cities," "Touch the People," and "Spiral Staircase," will appear as interactive levels of the game. Due out on August 7 for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, the title also includes playable original music by electronic producer Deadmau5, singer-songwriter Jim Guthrie, and indietronica artist I Am Robot and Proud. Read our early take on the game here.
Musicians contributing to video games is hardly unique anymore — Guthrie, for one, previously recorded music for the computer- and app-based adventure game Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP — but it's a neat example of Beck's approach since fulfilling his Interscope Records contract with 2008's Modern Guilt. Just in the past several months, the guy dropped his first rap verse in forever on a track with Childish Gambino, acted the hater in a bizarre collaboration with Jack White, unplugged for a mom-friendly rendition of folk standard "Corrina, Corrina," turned crooner staple "I Only Have Eyes for You" into a surreal transmission from the Twin Peaks Roadhouse, and gone country-rock for a song on the soundtrack to mumblecore movie Jeff, Who Lives at Home. That's after producing albums for Thurston Moore and Stephen Malkmus, with a Dwight Yoakam record still on the way. Oh yeah, and Beck also landed a song on one Twilight movie soundtrack, teamed up with Bat for Lashes for another one, remixed Feist, covered John Martyn, came up with all that music for the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World movie soundtrack, did that Record Club project that ended with a Yanni full-album-length cover...
As the Beastie Boys sampling lawsuit filed on the eve Adam "MCA" Yauch's passing underscored, they don't make albums like Paul's Boutique or Odelay anymore — not just because of the passing of time, but because copyright law has made all that brilliantly inventive sampling virtually impossible. Why, then, should Beck feel pressured to come up with a new album, which would only inevitably be compared against his past work, when he can creatively follow his muse through all these various one-off projects? Beck's post-Interscope discography brings to mind the wandering catalog of Damon Albarn, who has released a bounty of music over the years to rival that of his influence David Bowie, but without the benefit of a single brand name. Except rather than putting out albums under various monikers, Beck is still Beck — he just isn't putting out albums at all.
Well, that's not quite true. Beck's reps have said his White team-up came about "while Beck was in Nashville working on new material for his long-awaited next album." So there's hope. In the meantime, here's another cover, of Woody Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home in This World Anymore." The ramshackle mid-'90s live recording appeared on Beck's website yesterday in honor of what would have been Guthrie's 100th birthday, which took place over the weekend. This machine might not kill fascists, but it can still push the music industry forward.