Album Review: Thievery Corporation – The Temple of I & I

Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, aka electronic duo Theivery Corporation have released the fruits of their labour, recording in Jamaica for their latest full lengther and unsurprisingly given the setting, it’s their most dub-centric record to date.

They’ve experimented with dub and roots in the past, not for a whole record admittedly, but as with previous album Saudade which used Latin music as its base and allowed the boys to sprinkle some of their attractive Coffee table electronica all over it, so this time they’ve used the music of Jamaica as its principal building block.

Opener ‘Theif Rocker’ sets the tone, this electronic hue and almost static string sound giving the dirty swaggering bass a sheen and allowing the piano licks space to breathe, over which Zee raps and cadjoles the listener. Follow on ‘Letter to the Editor’ is a more upbeat affair, at least musically, this stuttering accompaniment punctuated by electronic swirls and slithers. Over the top Raquel Jones makes her first appearance on the record (she returns with the deeper, darker Road Block later on) rapping verses filled with political rhetoric and singing the chorus’s with her distinctive pipes.

‘Strike the root’ is straight up, horn heavy, but soulful reggae featuring Notch on the vocals, who makes something of it, as the horns mark the chorus out and the familiar off beat stabs from the guitar drive things on, and is a match for True Sons of Zion which follows later in the record, and is coloured by one hell of a catchy chorus, which Notch again delivers with some style. Garza and Hilton momentarily leave the in the sleeve roots behind for a moment with the jazz-funk of ‘Ghetto Matrix’, only returning to the now familiar DNA for the chorus, with Mr.Lif laying down his socio-political rhymes with some style. He returns with Fight to Survive at the albums back end, and shows his class, spitting his lines out with style and conviction.

Title track The Temple of I & I is more ambiguous that some of its predecssors, with the tight pads and dubby, echoey moments in the accompaniment, but spacier, more psychedelic that anything we’ve had before. Time and Space features some lovely french/English vocals from Lou Lou Ghelichkhani, while Shana Halligan takes the lead on the gorgeous Love has no heart, equally beautiful and melancholy at once, and certainly new little diamond in the Thievery Corportion crown.

Notch again contributes vocals in the latter part of the album, with Weapons of Distraction following the instrumental Let the Chalice Blaze, providing a vehicle for his earnest and attractive vocals, driven on by the bassline and the choppy guitar, sweetened, as much of the album is, by these sedate and stately strings. He also features in album closer, the darker, almost techno inspired Drop Your Guns.

The Temple of I & I isn’t a record thats going to challenge you musically, or indeed bet you round the head with its political undertones. Instead, as if often the will with Thievery Corporation, it suggests and cadjoles you instead, almost hookwinking you by wrapping everything up in sumptuous melodies and arrangements. It’s more than easy, though, it’s lovely.

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