Monday, December 19, 2011

Culture Of Fear - Thievery Corporation (2011 Honorable Mentions)

Culture Of Fear

Thievery Corporation
ESL Records.

SCQ Rating: 83%

It isn’t particularly cool to like Thievery Corporation. Don’t get me wrong: the chill-out two-piece are, by all accounts, more popular now than they’ve ever been but through dedicated pockets of fans that lounge comfortably outside the progressive scene. And for good reason: this Washington DC based duo has been refining the same predictable down-tempo for years, with each album adding a variety of world music embellishments that nonetheless congeal into the band’s decade-strong sound. What’s worse is that reputation for being refiners as opposed to innovators will keep Culture Of Fear a secret among super-fans, which is all kinds of wrong.

Opening on the familiar premise of appealing break-beats, a soulful vocal performance from a female I’ve never heard of, and a decent freestyle about the ills of our social climate, the couplet of ‘Web Of Deception’ and the title track prepare me for a typical post-Cosmic Game outing: guest-star heavy and emphatic on grooves. But Culture Of Fear expands with a celestial ease from that point, offering chill-out classics (‘Take My Soul’) and devious reggae dancehall beats (‘False Flag Dub’) that force me to reevaluate how uncool I’d deemed 2002 the past few years. So, yes, Thievery’s latest resonates like a throw-back to the days when down-tempo ruled the electronic scene, but that’s an accolade for the potency of songs like ‘Fragments’ and ‘Stargazer’.

By revisiting the less collaborative years that spawned The Mirror Conspiracy and The Richest Man In Babylon, the duo sound more focused and confident than ever. A powerful blend of heady dub, Parisian lounge and shimmering atmosphere, Culture Of Fear should reinstate both Thievery Corporation and down-tempo as fashionable and, yes, cool. 

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