Release Date: Aug 18, 2017
Record label: Cooking Vinyl
While there are many delicious moments throughout Lavelle's releases, UNKLE albums are always held up to comparison to their debut Psyence Fiction which brought about classic tracks featuring Thom Yorke , Mike D and Richard Ashcroft . Some have dismissed Unkle's subsequent releases as mere background noise or questioned the lack of big name talent, but to do so completely misses the point. The finesse of an Unkle record lies in the way the tracks morph into something that sounds true to the featured artists yet darkly twisted into Unkle.
British trip-hop pioneer James Lavelle gathered a host of featured guests for Unkle's sixth album, The Road, Pt 1, an eclectic, cinematic effort that's also surprisingly cohesive. Now the sole creative force behind Unkle, Lavelle has claimed that the album is an effort to go back to his roots, but there's nothing here that approaches the hip-hop influences of the group's debut, Psyence Fiction, and the album places far less emphasis on rock or psychedelia than 2007's War Stories or 2010's Where Did the Night Fall, respectively. Instead, he leans more heavily on symphonic strings, gentle piano, and flurries of acoustic guitar to complement electronic production that runs the gamut between quiet contemplation and cathartic frenzy.
James Lavelle has never been afraid to think outside the box. With his ever-rotating wheel of collaborations, he has managed to maintain a prolific output of primarily electronic music enriched with a burgeoning wave of assorted styles and sounds over the past 25 years. Here, inspired by his experience curating the 2014 Meltdown Festival at London's Southbank, Lavelle presents UNKLE's fifth studio album.
W hen James Lavelle ran hip 1990s label Mo' Wax, his genre-busting UNKLE project called on stars from Thom Yorke to Ian Brown, before Lavelle's career nosedived in a blizzard of cocaine. Today, the guest list - ranging from soul singer Eska to Tricky-like rapper Elliott Power - isn't so starry, but it is effective, and Mark Lanegan delivers the strings-soaked symphonic goth of Looking for the Rain with typical aplomb. Elsewhere, Lavelle's bankruptcy has brought reflection.