Gesaffelstein, one of the leaders of the futuristic, dark, and glitchy electronic music movement, perhaps set the bar too high with his debut album, Aleph, released in 2013. His sophomore album, Hyperion, sounds similar to Aleph, but without the edge or bite. Indeed, one could go so far as to call Hyperion a step back from Aleph, as the 10–track, 40–minute album is mostly filled with forgettable filler and a couple memorable tracks. The French DJ, otherwise known as Mike Levy, has shown in the past that he has the capability to produce intriguing and unique sounds, but as far as fascinating beats go, almost all tracks on Hyperion miss the mark.
Hyperion is perhaps so frustrating because the standout tracks on the album—“Blast Off”, featuring Pharrell Williams, “So Bad,” featuring HAIM, and “Lost in the Fire,” featuring the Weeknd—offer glimpses into the French DJ’s potential as a gifted and creative producer. Each song’s background complements the featured vocalist perfectly, as Gesaffelstein has a knack for identifying the perfect voice for each track. “Lost in the Fire,” the only single off the album, gives off a moody vibe ideal for the Weeknd’s sound, with a drumbeat reminiscent of the Weeknd’s famous single “Starboy,” produced by another French electronic powerhouse, Daft Punk.
Both “Lost in the Fire” and “So Bad” epitomize Gesaffelstein’s ability to craft sexy and gloomy beats, with hints of technologic and french house inspirations woven into an almost–morose background sound. On the other hand, “Blast Off,” while also featuring similar french house influences, marks his finest work at the other end of the spectrum of musical emotion. “Blast Off” features a catchy electronic drum kick and captivating vocals from Pharrell, particularly his hook, “When I'm looking in your face (Oh, higher, higher)/You give me faith (Oh, high up in the sky)/I feel this faith(Oh, higher, higher)/This must be fate (Oh, high up in the sky)/What do I know?” Gesaffelstein’s production shines as the ideal accompaniment to Pharrell’s vocals. However, these three tracks represent the sole memorable moments from an album that's otherwise unremarkable and unexceptional.
The difference between Hyperion and Aleph mainly lies in the appeal of Gesaffelstein’s instrumental tracks, as the songs without vocals on Hyperion are not nearly as captivating as those on Aleph. “Reset,” “Vortex,” and “Memora,” all of which should (in theory) call attention to Gesaffelstein’s unique futuristic, dystopian sound, instead feel like lackluster efforts at taciturn electronic beats. In stark contrast to Aleph, Gesaffelstein’s production on Hyperion does not draw the listener in. There are multiple songs on his debut album that command the attention of the listener, including “Pursuit,” “Obsession,” and “Hellifornia.” But it is almost as if the Gesaffelstein that produced Hyperion is a different Gesaffelstein from the one that produced Aleph or Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” and “Send It Up.” Hyperion simply feels disinterested, as if Levy felt he could replicate the vigor of the production in Aleph without adding any elements of intensity or zeal.
Hyperion is only Gesaffelstein’s second studio album, and Levy has too much talent and potential as a producer to write off. However, something will have to change between Hyperion and his next release in order to reignite the formidableness of his sound, otherwise he is doomed to repeat the same sound of lackluster and uninterested production which is all too present on Hyperion.