Call it "transglobal groove." Call it "lounge." Call it "downtempo with a hefty dose of dub and some bossa nova influences." Call it what you like, but one predominate mood will emerge from a listen to Thievery Corporation's The Cosmic Game - chill.

Originating from Washington DC's now famed Eighteenth Street Lounge, and with their own independent label, ESL Music, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton's unique spin on the downtempo genre has earned them international notoriety. Avoiding the pre-programmed, run of the mill beats common with this style, Garza and Hilton have no true industry peers. This is because the duo actually performs many of the live instruments on most Cosmic Game tracks.

The DC locale and current politic climate give some context to the rebellious (yet mellow sounding) anti-establishment flavor on the album. In fact, the first track "Walking the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)" lobs a sonic grenade at the Pennsylvania Avenue neighbors. Floating in on an ambient dreamscape, The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne delivers the introductory lyrics, "Well let's start by making it clear who is the enemy here." This theme stays consistent throughout and is delivered by the many guest vocalists who add a noticeably different texture to Thievery Corporation's otherwise instrumental sound. Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction fame contributes some high profile credibility to the underground sound of "Revolution Solution" singing, "The paradox of poverty has left us dismayed/ Sliding democracy washing away/ The toil of the many goes to the fortunate few/ The Revolution Solution/ I've come to join you." On "Amerimacka," Notch keeps the "buck the system" vibe alive with the biting lyrics, "Miss Liberty turn inna Jezebelle/ Her bed of roses are filled with thorns/ Her righteousness robes are tattered and torn/ If she had only stood for love, that would have been enough."

Yep... the transglobal chill-out is alive and well on Cosmic Game. Thievery Corporation has created a stand-out album dropping some of the best modern-day dub anywhere, fully utilizing echo chambers, psychedelic reverberations, and herb-shrouded horns, percussion, and bass. Game also features some tracks in Spanish, Indian, and Portuguese with the underlying Brazilian influence fairly recognizable. To top off the eclectic compilation of tunes, the legendary David Byrne even makes a guest appearance adding some bizarre and paranoid goodness to the world stew.

Thievery Corporation is a band that truly stands alone in an often cluttered universe of lounge/club/downtempo music. Not only are Garza and Hilton the only ones who make music like this, more importantly, they do it right. The Cosmic Game is a fantastic anomaly - mellowing you out while simultaneously provoking some deep and necessary thought.

John Smrtic
JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 5/22/05]

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