Thievery Corporation, The Cosmic Game

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Thievery Corporation's fourth proper album contains no instrumental surprises. Then again, there's no need — Washington D.C.'s Rob Garza and Eric Hilton already perfected their mix of woozy hip-hop beats, jazzy textures, dub reggae studio manipulations, world beat inclusiveness and lounge glamour on their previous CDs and DJ sets. Nevertheless, 2005's The Cosmic Game hits a career peak with numerous collaborations and zero filler.

Album opener "Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)" announces this album's vocal break from its predecessors. Wayne Coyne of contemporary psychedelic rock standard bearers the Flaming Lips contributes his mournful tenor rasp, here more subdued than usual, but attention-getting nevertheless. Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction similarly holds back his screams on "Revolution Solution"; here, he's the rare white rocker to sing reggae with an adopted Jamaican accent who doesn't come across as a jerk. David Byrne betters much of his post-Talking Heads solo output on "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter," largely thanks to an Afro-funk arrangement that recalls the Heads 'polyrhythmic 1980 LP Remain In Light.

Whereas Thievery Corporation have previously created stunning, sensuous background music, this disc puts considerable distance between the duo and its countless followers with tunes and performances that justify — as schoolteachers throughout the ages have put it — your undivided attention.