Latest effort by Thievery Corporation entitled the Richest Man in Babylon, finds the duo elevating their signature sound with more templative and thought-provoking songwriting. Due to the live nature of this record, it will be hard for many to call this an electronic album, which once again leaves everyone wondering where Thievery Corporation fits into the musical specturm. Definitly Thievery Corporation goes into a new direction with this album... but that's a good thing.
Thievery Corporation's Eric Hilton and Rob Garza have always treated the line between acoustic and electronic music as a drunken sailor might, unpredictably falling on one side or the other with equal frequency. By this measure, The Richest Man in Babylon
is their soberest effort to date, striding confidently into jazz, soul, world beat, and other styles with a direct, reverential approach. The band's last record, Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi
, featured a set of classic jazz tunes unadorned with remixes or reinterpretation. But the songs on Babylon
are originals, incorporating not just jazz but Afro-beat, Brazilian dance, Persian and Indian music, reggae, and psychedelia, all while making expert use of new and old collaborators like Sleepy Wonder, Lou Lou, and Shinehead
. Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini makes an instant impression on the first track, "Heaven's Gonna Burn Your Eyes," her voice freeing the song's melody and structure with just a few hypnotic bars. It's hard to call this an electronic record at all; even their dub-influenced tracks miss a certain studio sheen, as if Hilton and Garza simply waded into a sweltering Jamaican beach party and hit record. But while it misses the ambient, ethereal edge that made The Mirror Conspiracy
a downtempo classic, Babylon
satisfies with organic energy and tasteful eclecticism. --Matthew Cooke