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Thievery Corporation: The Richest Man In Babylon

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Thievery Corporation

Album: The Richest Man In Babylon
Label: ESL

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A pair of production fetishists who look suspiciously comfortable in designer suits, Thievery Corporation has achieved top-shelf electronica status by buffing worldly diversions to a precious shine. Directing the sounds of Jamaica, South America, and Central Asia through a downtempo fusion filter, albums like 2000's The Mirror Conspiracy have become indispensable fashion accessories for those climbing the cosmopolitan ranks. For all the impressive spangle and sheen, though, the D.C. duo can be immeasurably bland, sounding content to score lifestyle music rooted in excessive tastefulness and dubious appropriation. Playing exactly like past Thievery Corporation albums that sounded preordained from the start, The Richest Man In Babylon adopts various degrees of swagger and repose, but the cumulative effect is striking mostly for its vacancy. The album starts strongly enough, draping syrupy vocals by Emiliana Torrini over elegant electric piano and halting cymbal-crash breaks on "Heaven's Gonna Burn Your Eyes." Pulling sitars and hand drums into the fray, "Facing East" cooks up rich mantric tension worthy of Boards Of Canada. The duo's production prowess shows up elsewhere in small glints, touching down in tabla patterns that snake out of jazzy breakbeats in "Omid (Hope)" and the Jamaican basslines that pay homage to both chant-down reggae and lovers-rock finesse. But even at its most sweeping, the album toils in fusion too tidy to reach beyond the atmospheric signifiers that Thievery Corporation helped make so generic. The group services go-go Afro-pop, Brazilian bossa nova, Caribbean simmer, and Eastern mysticism with immaculate fidelity, but The Richest Man In Babylon ultimately falls victim to the morality tale embedded in its title.