Thievery Corporation‘s latest album, ‘The Temple of I & I’, runs like a well-directed film. The orchestrated highs and lows blend together seamlessly to create a thoroughly pleasant and engaging listening experience.
While Thievery Corporation is primarily comprised of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the dynamic DJ’ing duo brings on many different artists to perform the singing or spoken word on their tracks. Being able to use a variety of voices gives Thievery Corporation much flexibility with their music, and the freedom to blur the lines of dub, acid jazz, and trip hop.
‘The Temple of I & I’ exemplifies the pair’s versatility with their craft. It’s something to be put on in the background of your morning commute, at a house party or late at night after a date.
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But ‘I & I’ works equally well as a centrepiece. Its complex melting pot of instrumentals and engaging, thoughtful verses pull you in and make you pay attention to the subtle nuances of skill embedded in every track.
‘Thief Rockers’ opens the album with a deep dub feel, the ocean waves of electronic repetition flowing over you with the sounds of bass, strings, and Zee‘s coarse, whispering voice.
‘Weapons of Distraction’ is arguably the album’s most poignant track, particularly in today’s current state of political affairs and the backlash in the United States against both the media and the administration against President Donald Trump (‘They steal our attention / With the worst intentions / Their weapons of distraction / Every day / Is it a natural reaction? / To just look away?’).
The lyrics infused by the myriad of other artists Thievery Corporation brings in often incorporate themes revolving around political issues or aspects of social activism. The rough and gritty voice of Racquel Jones adds to this in ‘Letter to the Editor’ and ‘Road Block’, the latter even paying homage to George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’.
The titular track is the one fully instrumental song off the entire record. It stands apart from the rest as being less grounded — perhaps it’s the lack of vocal track. But ‘The Temple of I & I’ plays like a chilled-out dance party on the fringes of Earth’s atmosphere.
One interesting aspect of ‘I & I’ that almost has an “Easter egg” quality is a five chord progression repeated throughout ‘Strike the Root’ that brings to mind one of the more infamous songs of the Star Wars franchise. It carries a serious tone that is continued through most of the rest of ‘I & I’.
Despite the overwhelming presence of dub, jazz, and hip hop influences, other musical genres get their moment. Garza and Hilton’s love of Brazilian bossa nova shine in ‘Time + Space’ with Loulou Ghelichkhani singing in her haunting French, and in ‘Love Has No Heart’ with Shana Halligan’s breathy voice.
‘Fight to Survive’ is yet another jam from Thievery Corporation that could be part of the soundtrack of a dramatic action film, appropriately placed in some sort of chase scene. At the very least, it’s one to add to your running playlist.
‘I & I’ concludes with ‘Drop Your Guns’. The sound of horns adds depth, the slowed down rhythm lays you down, and Notch’s milky voice lulls you off, until the album stops and you play it all over again.
‘The Temple of I & I’ is out now, via ESL Music.