We’re far too slow on the uptake to make a habit of posting about forthcoming releases, but I’ll make an exception for this as it’s one of my favourite albums. Last week, Pitchfork reported that Beck’s 1994 album One Foot in the Grave is due a re-release on 14 April in the US. It was originally released on K in 1994, four months after his debut Mellow Gold, as part of an unusual contract that allowed him to release albums on indies in addition to his tie with Geffen.
To many the album is a minor curiosity in Beck’s substantial and varied catalogue, but it was a major catalyst in my appreciation of lo-fi recording and the strange, alluring power of spectral rustic folk. Combining these elements with Beck alternating between hoarse blues hollering and hushed stoner drawl created a set of songs that sound possessed and otherworldly. The one-take, straight-to-tape nature of One Foot in the Grave gives it a haunting atmosphere that’s as essential as Beck’s guitar, especially on ‘Forcefield’, a hushed, slow-building highlight that features the disembodied harmonies of Calvin Johnston.
By stepping from behind the irreverent, scatter shot lyrics and abrasive junk yard sounds of Mellow Gold, Beck showed himself to be a songwriter capable of depth and substance. Since One Foot in the Grave has been out of print since 2005 and had only sold modestly until then, it feels like a more worthy release than the endless reissues pouring from the major labels as they attempt to cash in on the twilight years of the CD. It will undoubtedly be a revelation to those familiar only with Beck’s later material.
The reissue also includes a bonus disc of previously unreleased material: the full tracklisting is on PFork and five streaming songs can be found here.