Music: Killing Time

Beck is unexpectedly low-key on his latest CD

Genre hopping is the favorite sport of today's pop stars, and few performers play the game better than Beck. On his major-label debut, Mellow Gold (1994), Beck helped re-energize folk motifs by combining them with hip-hop beats. On his new album, Mutations (DGC), Beck has mostly abandoned hip-hop. His new sound draws largely from older, traditional styles: pure folk, blues and, on the spirited song Tropicalia, bossa nova. The energy of Beck's hip-hop/folk experimentation is missed here; this is a ruminative album that's more about quiet revelation than sonic revolution. In fact, Beck delivers almost every song in a drained drone;...

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