Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Album review: Thievery Corporation, "Versions"

This review was published in the beginning of the month as the Album of the Month review for Uncommon Rotation, a show on WERS that features a kind of "best of" lineup--all the hosts' favorite picks for the month. I usually enjoy the entire lineup on the show, and this album is no exception, so I'll just let the review speak for itself. You can also listen to an MP3 of one of the tracks, a remixed version of "This is Not A Love Song" by Nouvelle Vague, at


Artist: Thievery Corporation
Album: Versions
Released: May 2006
Show: Uncommon Rotation

Have you ever left a club saturated to the bone with top-40 hip-hop or techno, and wished you could defeat the tedium by mixing your own favorite music into lounge-worthy beats? Luckily, Thievery Corporation has taken the liberty of handling the task, and they've even added a few retro hits you might have missed.

The spinmasters of TC, Eric Hilton and Rob Garza, are in the perfect position to know what works in a club: they own one. The partners began their musical careers by releasing their work through their Eighteenth Street Lounge (ESL) label, named after their Washington , D.C. watering hole. TC became well known through their high-profile collaborations with David Byrne, the Flaming Lips and Perry Farrell on The Cosmic Game, their 2005 album. One track, "Lebanese Blonde," also made its way onto the popular Garden State soundtrack.

Since then, the two have continued to create their expansive lounge sound with well-regarded artists such as Norah Jones, whose soporific vocals can be heard drifting through "Angels," a remix of the song by Wax Poetic, which has been a go-to track for WERS' Coffeehouse and Uncommon Rotation shows. Another favorite here at the station is TC's remix of Astrud Gilberto's worldly "Who Needs Forever." One can picture both the crowd and the locale for which these tracks were created: an expensively-coiffed, international crowd all swaying slowly under the dim lights of a cool interior of a well-appointed D.C. dance club, martinis in hand.

But don't let the sophisticated sound alienate you if your scene is more likely to include bare light bulbs, slip-covered couches, and the tinny sound of computer speakers. Instead, escape to the breezy sound of this eminently listenable album. For Versions is nothing if not transformative, drawing on sources such as the Doors' "Strange Days" and Sarah McLachlan's "Dirty Little Secret" and building on their existing ethereal themes to make remixes that are more breathy, woozy, and smooth, but still enjoyably recognizable in their made-over states. And while the mix is certainly eclectic, Hilton and Garza have produced an album that functions well as a coherent whole. For that reason, Versions belongs in the collections of both retro-rock fans and electronica buffs alike--or anyone else who appreciates music that so refreshingly transcends musical and cultural boundaries without betraying its own unifying character.

Focus tracks (played on WERS): Wax Poetic - Angels (TC Remix) feat. Norah Jones, Astrud Gilberto - Who Needs Forever (TC Remix)

Other notable tracks: Strange Days by the Doors remixed

-Ryan Rose Weaver


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