Thievery Corporation: Versions
ESL Music

Tosca: Souvenirs

Thievery Corporation (Rob Garza and Eric Hilton) nods to the Jamaican production tradition of creating 'versions' of eighteen original compositions on their second remix collection (the first 1999's Abductions and Reconstructions). Most of it's in the group's familiar chill-out (detractors might say somnambulant) style. The duo's atmospheric handling of Ustad Sultan Khan's “Tanara” and Anoushka Shankar's “Beloved” is decent enough while Damien's “Habanos Days” comes across as an appealingly tight dub workout. The subtly funky rendering of Nouvelle Vague's “This Is Not a Love Song” impresses, as does the chill-out 'Nuevo bossa' languor of Astrud Gilberto's “Who Needs Forever.” Elsewhere, the duo covers tracks by The Januaries, Transglobal Underground, Sarah McLachlan, Bebel Gilberto, Wax Poetic, among others, and trainspotters may want to know that the relaxed reggae workout “Originality” featuring Sister Nancy is a new TC original. Still, while one applauds Garza and Eric Hilton's open-mindedness (or more cynically ponders whether the commissions were too tempting to resist), one questions their decision to feature tracks by Herb Alpert and The Doors, inclusions that do little to enhance Thievery Corporation's credibility. Alpert's “Lemon Tree” is about as banal as one might expect, and, while the grooving update of “Strange Days” is tolerable, it also seems an unnecessary act of aural necrophilia.

Electronic trip-hop outfit Tosca (Austrians Richard Dorfmeister and Peter Kruder) does the remix thang too though approaches it in a slightly different way by inviting a slew of guest artists to remix its J.A.C. album (apparently the pair did the same thing before with 2002's Suzuki In Dub where artists remixed tracks from 1999's Suzuki). The disc's sixteen cuts include multiple versions, allowing for interesting comparisons. Burnt Friedman's mix of “John Lee Huber,” for example, is an electric sleaze-ball mix of country and funk while Rodney Hunter's is more like dancehall dub, the two versions so contrasting it's hard to believe they're based on the same original. “Superrob” gets smooth dub treatments from both Frost & Wagner and Haaksman & Haaksman, the first featuring Earl Zinger's gravelly voice and the second Ras Donovan's rootsy vocalizing. Elsewhere, DJ DSL's “Rondo Acapricio” mix works up a tasty hip-hop vibe, Makossa & Megablast turn “Heidi Bruehl” into streaking electro-house, and AGF gives “Naschkatze” a comparatively experimental makeover. Stereotyp contributes two mixes of “Pyjama,” the first a nocturnal club groover driven by a wiry bass line and the subsequent 'No PJ's' mix a more technoid rendering accompanied by Sandra Kurzweil's soulful entreaties. Souvenir leaves a good impression overall, especially Señor Coconut's slick Latin-cha-cha handling of “The Big Sleep” and Hans-Peter Lindstrom's elegant tech-house recasting of “Zueri.”

May 2006