Hearing Aide: Thievery Corporation ‘The Temple of I & I’

Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, better known as the electronic duo, Thievery Corporation, have been genre-blending their way from upbeat dance halls to groovy lounges for over two decades. Their new album, The Temple of I & I, which drops on February 10, presents two middle-aged music-heads redefining their sound once again. While their last album, Saudade, took the group to Brazil to gather ideas from their bossa nova upbringing, Temple drops them off on the beautiful beaches of Jamaica in search of inspiration from a higher power.

The roots rock reggae feel can be found immediately as “Thief Rockers” treats listeners to their first hit and much like featured artist Zee’s lyrics indicate, the sound has also “got the magic ganja gonna make your head spin.” The delicate mix of ambient-dub with Jamaican vocals sets the vibe for the remainder of the hour-long Caribbean vacation.

Thievery Corporation is known for eliciting talent from hip-hop to trance backgrounds, and in their new album, they discovered Kingston’s own singer and MC, Racquel Jones. “Letter to the Editor” is the first of two tracks she appears on and her fast paced flow glides well with the disco-dub beat. Long-time collaborator, Mr. Lif, uses his lyrics to tackle worldwide socioeconomic conditions in “Ghetto Matrix.” After a highly political 2016, this protest-tronic piece fits into early 2017 with unfortunate ease. “It’s a complex plan that keeps us confined,” can be easily said about political interest in Jamaica as well as here in the states and around the world.

Our nation’s capitol is where Thievery Corporation calls home and in tracks like “Weapons of Distraction,” “Road Blocks,” and Mr. Lif’s second appearance, and“Fight to Survive,” there are signs of revolt and reaction to injustices from the duo and the supporting artists. While The Temple of I & I could serve as a good sit-down and smoke a joint album, it also works as a stand up and raise a fist mix.

“Strike the Root,” showcases a Thievery Corporation regular, Notch Howell, singing over a dub beat with a horn section that sounds reminiscent to the Star Wars “Force Theme.” “Let The Chalice Blaze” is a timeless track from these electronic kingpins that would fit nicely on to any one of their eight studio albums. The Temple of I & I may be one of their wordiest releases to date, but this instrumental track brings new and old Corp. fans to a safe space.

In reference to the record’s title, Hilton explains, “It is a place of worship that exists only in our imagination.” While the album sounds uniquely different from previous releases, there is the central theme of consciousness and self-reflection that melodically finds its way into most of their work. The eclectic arrangement of varying themes and sonic journeys give each listener a chance to enter one’s own temple.

Key Tracks: Thief Rockers, The Temple of I & I, Let The Chalice Blaze