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Thievery Corporation

The Temple of I & I

Thievery Corporation

2017

Although I have always liked Thievery Corporation in principle (down-tempo, world-flavored/chill-out cocktail music), I’ve also typically found pretty much all of their records (or technically, the 2-3 of them I’ve bothered to listen to in full) to be fairly underwhelming overall.  Sure, there’s usually a song or two on each of them that locks into an infectious, hypnotically “sophisticated” groove that embodies the best of what trip-hop has to offer, but unfortunately too much of their albums are usually a tad too pretentious/tedious in nature for their own good.

But on their new album, The Temple of I & I, the group headed down south to Jamaica for the recording sessions, and the results are pretty spectacularly dub-tastic.  Granted, it’s not surprising that this album is heavily drenched in dug-reggae beats/rhythms, but what is surprising is just how good it actually is.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is one of the best dub-reggae album I’ve ever heard.  Granted I’m not particularly well-versed in the genre (my introduction to dub-reggae was through Sublime after all), but I know my Charlie Chaplan, my Toots & The Maytals, my Steel Pulse, etc, and I can say this is just as good as anything those guys have ever done.

That’s probably because Thievery Corporation have always taken a highly professional, streamlined approach to their music, and as a result everything sounds incredibly smooth here (as you might expect).  But unlike most all other TC albums, this one doesn’t have that pretentious air about it, thanks in large part to the slew of reputable guest appearances peppered on most of the tracks (i.e. Racquel Jones, Notch, etc.)  It also helps that most of these tracks are heavily rhythmic and infectiously beat-driven in the most dub-alicious way possible.  Songs like “Strike the Root”, “True Sons of Zion”, and “Road Block” are the best examples of this, as it’s practically impossible to sit still to these tunes.  They’re all money.

There’s also a fair amount of variety on the album, as The Temple of I & I features a few hip-hop flavored tracks that help keep things energized (i.e. “Letter to the Editor”, and the old-school flavored “Fight to Survive”), as well as more than a few mellower numbers that act to counterbalance that vibe.  Those mellower tunes are essentially all centered in the middle-third of the album, which gives that stretch a bit of a sleepy/dreamy quality that, although quite pretty/chill, occasionally borders on tedium at times.  The most notable exception is “Let the Chalice Blaze”, which is really one of the best songs on the entire album.  That tune is the personification of “beach-zen” and is really beautifully done. 

The same could be said about the album as a whole really.  Although the aforementioned middle section is probably a little too sedate for its own good, it’s all part of the journey that makes The Temple of I & I the very cool album that it is.  It’s always nice to find a new, high-quality summer/tropical album, and The Temple of I & I will no doubt be essential listening for yours truly during that time of year for quite some time to come.

Simply put, one of the best new-school dub-reggae albums I’ve ever heard.

8.3

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