Thievery Corporation – Culture Of Fear (Border Music)

Thievery Corporation DJs Eric Hilton and Rob Garza have been mixing it up since 1995, blending genres (trip-hop, funk, soul, lounge, reggae) and regional styles (Brazilian, Indian, Middle Eastern) with the work of guest musicians to create a sound that is dancey without being doof, and international without being ‘world music’. Culture of Fear is the duo’s sixth studio album, and while some hard-core fans have complained that it lacks the diversity of previous albums there is still a lot of sumptuous sound to revel in here.

 First track Web of Deception begins with a bouncy funk beat that drops down to a smoky electro lounge sigh before picking up again with some soul and the sing-along lyrics “why can’t you see that they always will deceive”. Culture Of Fear features characteristic groovy beats and vocals of rapper Mr. Lif. Beginning with the words “Seems to me like they want us to be afraid man. Or maybe we just like to be afraid,” Mr. Lif goes on to discuss home repossession, supposed terrorist attacks, technology dependency and other social threats that may or may not be cause for concern, but the up-beat music presents his message with a sense of hope rather than despair. Among the dreamy and soulful vocals that populate the rest of album Mr. Lif’s direct approach is a real ear-opener.

 Persian ingénue Loulou provides the vocals on Take My Soul. Despite the vaguely masochistic lyrics (“you’re the cure I’m looking for. Take my soul – I don’t need it any more”) this track sounds as though it’d be right at home on a Lazy Sunday compilation. Loulou’s dreamy vocals also make an appearance on Where It All Starts and Safar. In Persian, the lyrics of Safar (which apparently translate as “Why don’t you open your eyes? I miss you. Why do I miss you? Where did you guys go?”) sound a lot more mysterious.

 Nigerian artist Sleepy Wonder provides vocals for the deep reggae beat of Stargazer, and vocalist Ras Puma adds a rasta layer to False Flag Dub and the classic reggae sound of Overstand. Is It Over takes us into darker territory with some grimy beats and vocals from Bitter:Sweet’s Shana Halligan’s that almost rival Beth Gibbons’ for trip-hop despair. Singer Kota breathes some vocals, ranging from pop to rap, over the closing track. Like an exotic bird in a cage, Kota sounds too depressed to be genuinely Free. Elsewhere spacey sounds circle over luscious beats on instrumentals such as Tower Seven.

 All this wrapped up in a digipak so sexy you might want to take it to bed.

 Kathryn van Beek

 Click here to listen to Web Of Deception from Culture Of Fear: