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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Thievery Corp. takes a journey through the 'Cosmic Gate'

It's tempting to write off Thievery Corporation as lounge music: a horrible term which brings to mind pretentious New York hipsters wearing light colored sunglasses at night, always seeming high on something, and hanging out at dimly lit clubs with cooler-than-thou DJs.

Yet Thievery's latest album, "The Cosmic Gate" is more complex than that, taking the listener through a whirlwind of psychedelic beats, intriguing lyrics sung by guest artists, and styles borrowed from a variety of cultures. The journey begins in indie-rock America and moves from there to Jamaica, Brazil and India.

The album opens with "Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)." The opening sounds suspiciously like Massive Attack's "Teardrop" until the entrance of a very weird voice: Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. This is one of Thievery's most political songs and sets the album's tone of protest.

Coyne's opening line is: "Let's start by/making it clear/Who is the enemy/Show them/That it's not them/Who is superior." Coyne's voice is distorted and there is a melodic chorus of voices in the background. The piece stands as a departure from the band's earlier work.

The world tour continues in Jamaica, with one of the strongest songs on the album, "Warning Shots." On this track, Thievery blends jungle MCs and their usual Rude Boys references with a hard, psychedelic backbeat. The echoes and the distortion are on par with any Thievery album, but the addition of the jungle MC makes it more unique.

"The Cosmic Gate" is full of guest vocalists, including Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction and David Byrne of Talking Heads. There are also several less famous additions, most of them Indian or Brazilian artists. The use of so many different styles adds variety to the album, yet the group manages to keep the album cohesive through their signature psychedelic style and the use of African drums, which appear on several songs.

The best of the Indian influenced songs is "Doors of Perception," featuring Gunjan. Thievery effectively mixes the unique, traditional sound of the sitar with lofty electronica melodies. The vocalist does not sing words; instead she just produces melodic tones. In the middle of the song, very suddenly, a hardcore drum beat begins. The m?©lange produced by the sitar, the voice and the drums makes this one of the more unique songs on the album.

"The Cosmic Gate" is a good album for its genre, thanks to the heavy blending of cultural music and trip-hop, yet the album has a few boring songs interspersed in between the more creative tracks. "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" and "Amerimacka" are not particularly interesting unless the listener is on enough drugs to make roller coasters appear in front of him, while "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter" - the song featuring David Byrne - simply makes no sense.

Byrne sings, "Welcome to my spaceship/you're beautiful forever." The beats are interesting but Byrne's lack of coherence takes something away from the song.

A drawback to the Thievery duo's music is pretension. It is very difficult to make a lounge music album unpretentious, and Garza and Hilton sometimes go too far in trying to be creative and different. The use of Indian Bhangra was creative on one or two songs, but by the fourth Indian song, it is no longer innovative. Artists must take care when adopting other cultures' fashions in their music and not forget their own personal style, which in Thievery's case, more closely resembles Portishead and Massive Attack than Astrud Gilberto.