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Beck To Release Sheet Music 'Album'
Robin Turner , August 8th, 2012 13:00

No recordings, but book of scores to come out via Faber & Faber this December

It’s been four years since Beck released Modern Guilt, his eleventh LP and the point at which he decided to do things differently. In the ensuing years, there’s been: an online Album Club (where everyone from MGMT to Liars rock up to the studio for twenty-four hours to cover records as diverse as INXS’ Kick and Skip Spence’s Oar), production work for the likes of Stephen Malkmus, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Thurston Moore, a few songs on the soundtrack to Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and a frankly demented one-off 7" for Jack White’s Third Man label. Although a new collection of Beck original material has been hinted at for the last couple of years, until now it’s remained nothing more than a rumour.

Today, Beck announces his first collection of songs since 2008. Beck Hansen's Song Reader consists of twenty new songs that will exist only as individual pieces of sheet music. None will ever have been recorded before. Released (published?) by Faber & Faber in December, Song Reader will come in a hardback case with full-colour, unique art for each song. It even comes with simple ukulele notations.

The 20 songs include two instrumentals and are "as exciting as you'd expect from their author", but, as the press release goes on to say, "If you want to hear 'Do We? We Do', or 'Don't Act Like Your Heart Isn't Hard', bringing them to life depends on you, the reader." The whole thing has been designed by Beck with the help of the people behind McSweeney’s and is illustrated by – among others - Marcel Dzama, Leanne Shapton, Josh Cochran and Jessica Hische.

As an experiment, Song Reader poses interesting questions as to what an album can be in the 21st century. Since the launch of iTunes and the point where one can just cherry pick the songs they want, what is an album anyway? And in a world where file sharing is depressingly considered the norm, is releasing a song collection that fans actually have to make themselves one of the last truly original moves left for an artist?

Lee Brackstone, Faber's Publishing Director, says of the project: "Beck is one of the great maverick pop stars of this, or any age, and as soon as I saw Song Reader the relevance of the concept struck me. Song Reader makes a radical statement about the value and importance of performed and recorded music at a time when these very things are under threat."

By signing to Faber & Faber, Beck joins something of a fantasy festival roster that includes Nicky Wire, Julian Cope, Will Oldham, Jarvis Cocker, the Pogues’ James Fearnley and Viv Albertine. For more on Song Reader, check Faber’s blog. The cover can be seen here: