Like the end-of-season regenerations of Doctor Who, every new record from James Lavelle's UNKLE finds the musical project at the climax of some dramatic transmutation. Never, Never, Land
is no exception. Soon after the release of 1999's Psyence Fiction
, beats wizard DJ Shadow
announced he'd never work as a member of UNKLE again--and accordingly, the first thing you notice about Never, Never, Land
is the absence of his robust percussion. But once over that minor disappointment, it's not hard to wallow in this record's impressively dark scope.
With the aid of new collaborator Richard File, Lavelle has made a record that connects the dots between the creeping melancholy of Talk Talk, the scaly electronics of Massive Attack's Mezzanine and the grand sky-bound epics of the Verve. Like its predecessor, there's a proliferation of guest appearances: Jarvis Cocker, Josh Homme, Brian Eno, Ian Brown, Massive Attack's Robert del Naja. But the vocals are assimilated much more successfully here, ensuring that guest never overpowers song. Lavelle still has a fine eye for casting his songs in the grandest narratives: "Panic Attack" samples the robotic pulse of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control" and overlays it with blurred electronic shimmers and driving bass. Mind you, it might be the understated numbers--"Glow", "Inside"--that provide some of the record's loveliest moments. --Louis Pattison
UNKLE mainstay James Lavelle teams up with Richard File for a progressive work which Mixmag (June 2003) says "sounds like the joint album Massive Attack, The Stone Roses and Pink Floyd never made."