The "downtempo" style of electronic music has waned since its heady late-'90s heyday, when everyone and his hip uncle had Kruder & Dorfmeister's K&D Sessions as their late-night soundtrack. K&D haven't dropped a full disc since that masterpiece, but their compatriots in Thievery Corporation have kept the torch aloft, churning out discs on a regular basis. But TC's slow-burning, slightly trippy beats have had diminishing results as the duo moved into a new century.
Until now. The Cosmic Game may be the best disc TC has ever put out -- the only question is if it came too late to save the duo's flagging fortunes. With guests like the Flaming Lips, Gunjan, Perry Farrell (doing his best Horace Andy impression) and David Byrne, The Cosmic Game isn't so much a change of styles for TC as it is a perfection of style. The basic elements are still there: shimmery strings, minimal bass, midtempo beats. It just all jells gorgeously here, especially on the Flaming Lips' "Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)," which is a mind-meld of the two bands, and the fantastic "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter," in which David Byrne proves to all the '80s fetishists that he's still got it. "Welcome to my spaceship/It's beautiful forever," he sings in the chorus. Let's hope the Thievery Corporation can keep it beautiful that long.