Album Review: Various Artists – Star Wars Headspace

Rick Rubin and co. tap into their collective Star Wars geekdom




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Insulated by an array of hardware, software, and other DIY machinery, so many DJs and producers happily claim their technologic geekery. And how can one have proper “geek” cred without a sufficient knowledge of the Star Wars universe? Led by executive producer Rick Rubin, Star Wars Headspace offered an eclectic assortment of producers the opportunity to tap into the film’s broad sound library and craft new electronic worlds. In essence, this is musical fan fiction ready for both celestial dance floors and distant forgotten landscapes.

Produced by Walt Disney, the team behind 2010’s Tron Legacy, and about 10 generations of childhood fantasies, the disc itself shouldn’t arrive as much of a surprise. Released less than a week after Justin Bieber took home his first Grammy for the Jack Ü-produced “Where Are Ü Now”, Headspace feels like EDM’s final thrust into the full view of pop culture. Just as Disney has done with Star Wars and Marvel, with Headspace, the billion-dollar company manages to make the product (in this case, EDM) accessible to about everyone without diluting the original enough to entirely piss-off early disciples.

While Disney cashing in on EDM should be anticipated, the artists selected add an unexpected authenticity to the project. Hollywood Records, the Disney imprint, could have ensured Cole Plante received a few album credits and amplified his name recognition; however, the Rubin-led team recruited relatively unknown talents like Shlohmo and Galantis to encapsulate the state of dance music today. Kaskade provides the tutorial for this journey, his lead-track “C-3PO’s Plight” moving at a much slower gait than his standard main stage exploits. For those that require a quick recap of the films, Claude VonStroke and Barry Drift provide a clever summary through the booty-bass filled “R2 Knows”. The lyrics fit with VonStroke’s witty production perfectly: “Han shot first and Greedo never shot his gun/ Leia talks to R2, please help me Obi-Wan/ Luke lost his hand, but a Jedi doesn’t need one.”

Likely under tight deadline, each track tends to live squarely within the individual producer’s standard production palette. Flying Lotus invites Luke and co. onto his signature astral plane with “R2 Where R U?”, Bonobo works his ambient brush across “Ghomrassen”, and the sci-fi snippets are a natural fit into the sample-based bangers of GTA (“Help Me!”), Baauer (“Cantina Boys”), and Rustie (“EWOK PUMPP”). The A-Trak-featuring “Jabba Flow [Rick Rubin Re-Work]” is an undercover motivator, the low-end pulse only revealing itself through a solid system.

On the other side of the spectrum, “Bounty Hunters” is difficult to initially pet as coming from Norway’s Röyksopp. Those hoping for a cheerful “Eple”-esque production will be greatly distraught when brought into the dark synthwave. These stylistic left turns are a major asset to the collection. “Sunset Over Manaan” casts mau5trap’s ATTLAS into a far more cinematic environment than his previous electro efforts and showcases a growing melodic refinement. Aided by Breakbot’s funky, downtempo closer “Star Tripper”, Rubin is able to construct a loose narrative from these divergent parts.

It’s these subtle artistic choices that give this collection value removed from an agency-planned marketing scheme and possible life outside of a Comic-Con afterparty. The more expected and straight-ahead inclusions are fun for a couple of spins, but won’t last beyond the novelty. That said, the opportunity to cash in on the cultural cache couldn’t have been passed up. Since the Star Wars saga first debuted in 1977, it has had a monumental cultural impact, and no statement on 2015-2016 culture would be complete without a hat-tip to electronic dance music. But after a few listens, it just seems like it’s a trap.

Essential Tracks: “Jabba Flow [Rick Rubin Re-Work]”, “Bounty Hunters”, and “Star Tripper”