Downtempo, trip hop, and chillout outfit Thievery Corporation have returned with their tenth studio album, The Temple of I & I – but unfortunately it follows in the footsteps of 2014’s Saudade and remains a far cry from the quality of their early releases. Thievery Corporation are notably dub-centered on this project, incorporating fewer elements of lounge and chillout than previously, but ultimately resulting in a more stagnant and repetitive release; what they make up for in cohesiveness is not made up in musicality and interesting songwriting.
Too often does The Temple of I & I rely on recycled ideas and rehashed horn riffs throughout the entirety of the project, with songs like Strike the Root and Babylon Falling dragging on and on, slowing the album to a halt. Thievery Corporation add their signature little electronica twists, but it’s barely enough to liven this album up – if you listen to dub, downtempo, ot trip hop, then these are basslines you’ve heard before, brass hits you’ve heard before, and drum fills you’ve heard a million times over.
None of these songs are either incredibly awful or particularly good by themselves, but in the context of the album they’re dull and uninteresting, only serving to stretch the album out to over an hour in length. Still, the album’s handful of guest vocalists and frequent collaborators add some flavour to The Temple of I & I. Mr Lif’s feature on Ghetto Matrix is excellent, a blend of dub, downtempo, and alternative hip hop that results in one this project’s best tracks – yet his second feature on Fight to Survive is lackluster, dropping in for a boring, forgettable verse and an equally unexciting hook.
These features help this project from being a series of monotonous instrumentals, but they themselves grow wearisome when the same vocalists are giving the same performance over an instrumental that sounds the same. Vocalist Notch provides far too many repeats of the same reggae hook on songs like Weapons of Distraction or Drop Your Guns, while the majority of other features fall into the vein of repetitive rap verses or a forgettable assortment of ethereal voices. Time + Space, with Loulou Ghelichkhani on guest duty, is one of few standout vocal performances, with her subtle dreamy singing working in perfect harmony with Thievery Corporation’s spacey dubtronica instrumental.
The instrumental title track The Temple of I & I showcases where Thievery Corporation shines as they let their own performances speak for them – it’s a lush, synth-laden and spacey composition of electronica ambience, and it works well when they expand on their musical ideas rather than letting one dull motif dominate a song. Even with well produced tracks like this, there’s plenty of mess and inconsistency too. The Temple of I & I would have heavily benefited from more time spent on mixing and mastering – this is not final product material. Opening track Thief Rockets is muddy and oversaturated in reverb, while vocals often find themselves dropping out beneath the drums and bass.
The Temple of I & I is not a disappointing project – but it would have been, had anyone expected anything better. Thievery Corporation need to focus on freshening up their sound and making their style interesting – right now they sound like bedroom electronica wannabes who listened to Moon Safari once.
52 / 100