Release Date: Feb 10, 2017
Record label: Eighteenth Street
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
After 2014's Saudade, which found them playing to their strong bossa nova influence, Temple Of I &I, recorded in Jamaica, represents the Thievery collective at full strength for their 20th Anniversary. Rob Garza and Eric Hilton's vision has never seemed clearer, minting their fine melee of styles and beautifully delivered with a range of guest vocalists. Racquel Jones leads on Letter To The Editor, a near-perfect blend of agitpop, sweet beats, with the Casio VLTone (the sound of young 1981) making a reappearance.
Thievery Corporation, the Washington DC-based duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, has thrived for 20 years so you should already be familiar with their exquisite dub-inspired, downbeat, electronica. The Temple of I & I sees them not only going back to the source of their inspiration, imbuing their trip hop sound with old-school Jamaican rhythms, but also moving it forward with the inclusion of some MC and rap vocals. On paper it sounds like an odd combination, but coming through the speakers it sounds spectacular.
They've had no commercial radio hits, no high-end, big-budget videos, no major-label backing. Yet for over 20 years, Thievery Corporation (Rob Garza and Eric Hilton) have managed to continuously pull in a fan base, own and operate their own label, routinely headline major festivals and release album after album, selling millions in the process. Thievery's eclectic and diverse catalogue is exactly why they have an unwavering following; their range can and does appeal to just about everyone. As the majority of their releases attest, Thievery Corporation have been heavily influenced by Jamaican music, and their latest release, The Temple of I & I, is no exception.
Recorded during a residency in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Thievery Corporation's The Temple of I and I is perhaps the group's most focused effort to date—which also makes it their least adventurous. Throughout the album, the band digs deeply into reggae vibes and dancehall rhythms, and brings in local players and lyricists to forge an atmosphere of authenticity. If their previous sonic travelogues had the light and sterile touch of a brief sightseeing jaunt, this one attempts to leave a footprint.
Thievery Corporation's eighth studio album finds the duo digging ever deeper into their niche, which makes sense considering that they have 22 years' worth of experience behind them and a solid fan base -- a radical reinvention would have been counterproductive. Instead, they deliver a by-the-numbers effort that fully embraces the idea of background music. Their lack of innovation runs deep; despite a number of subtle changes over the years, the music itself sounds incredibly outdated.
If anyone can dub it, Thievery Corporation can. Here's an act whose sound very much embodied the turn of the century. Coffee table, lo-fi ambient dub; A mutant form of trip-hop that defined the lounge music sound of the Noughties. Alongside such peers as Boozoo Bajou, Tosca and Peace Orchestra, the production duo comprising of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton set the template for chill-out compilations and soundtracks for the more middle-aged connoisseurs in us.