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Psyence Fiction

UNKLE

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Album Review

James Lavelle and DJ Shadow are unequal partners in UNKLE, with the former providing the concept and the latter providing music, which naturally overshadows the concept, since the only clear concept — apart from futuristic sound effects, video-game samples, and merging trip-hop with rock — is collaborating with a variety of musicians, from superstars to cult favorites Kool G Rap, Alice Temple, and Mark Hollis (who provides uncredited piano on "Chaos"). Since Shadow's prime gift is for instrumentals, the prospect of him collaborating with vocalists is more intriguing than enticing, and Psyence Fiction is appropriately divided between brilliance and failed experiments. Shadow and Lavelle aren't breaking new territory here — beneath the harder rock edge, full-fledged songs, and occasional melodicism, the album stays on the course Endtroducing... set. Shadow isn't given room to run wild with his soundscapes, and only a couple of cuts, such as the explosive opener, "Guns Blazing," equal the sonic collages of his debut. Initially, that may be a disappointment, but UNKLE gains momentum on repeated listens. Portions of the record still sound a little awkward — Mike D's contribution suffers primarily from recycled Hello Nasty rhyme schemes — yet those moments are overshadowed by Shadow's imagination and unpredictable highlights, such as Temple's chilly "Bloodstain" or Badly Drawn Boy's claustrophobic "Nursery Rhyme," as well as the masterstrokes fronted by Richard Ashcroft (a sweeping, neo-symphonic "Lonely Soul") and Thom Yorke (the moody "Rabbit in Your Headlights"). These moments might not add up to an overpowering record, but in some ways Psyence Fiction is something better — a superstar project that doesn't play it safe and actually has its share of rich, rewarding music.

Customer Reviews

Absolutely Essential

One of the best compilations of artists combining to create on the greatest DJ albums of all time. DJ Shadow rocks da house. 1998 yet still applies today

Best so-called "trip-hop" album of all time

This album only gets better with age. Absolutley fantastic. This album is one of the most surreal and viceral sounding experiences you will ever have. Buy this now.

'God Knows Your Lonely Souls'

I have all of "Psyence Fiction" and the majority of it is not my cup of tea. However, I give it high marks for a few tracks that you should definitely get: 'Unreal' (awesome, mostly instrumental, non-rap), 'Rabbit In Your Headlights' featuring Thom Yorke, and the masterpiece of it all: 'Lonely Soul' featuring and co-written by Richard Ashcroft. It is one of the most brilliant, compelling tracks ever written.

Biography

Formed: 1994 in London, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Experimental hip-hop outfit UNKLE were one of the original artists releasing material through noted U.K. label Mo' Wax, which helped launch the instrumental, mid-'90s downtempo breakbeat revival eventually termed trip-hop. Though hardly the label's highest-profile group (at least until the long-delayed release of their debut LP in 1998), UNKLE's members included label head James Lavelle, who formed Mo' Wax while still in his teens as an antidote to the increasingly stale acid jazz/Northern soul scene....
Full bio