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Cinescope

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Album Review

As they creep up on a decade of producing and performing together, the three members of Thunderball seem to be settling into something of a groove, for better or for worse. As of yet there's no sign that their groove is going to deepen into a rut: on Cinescope the group continues to bounce between slinky ersatz Bollywood film music, retrofitted Afro-funk, Brazilian dance beats, and downtempo lounge-lizard club grooves — this time with the additional element of old-school hip-hop courtesy of the legendary Afrika Bambaataa (who, to the sure delight of anyone over age 35, brought his vocoder to the party with him). For the first half of this album, the results are an utter delight: the funky Orientalism of "Road to Benares" (with its faux sitar and barked backing vocals), the blaxploitation film epic "Return of the Panther," the nearly creepy dub-hop of "Electric Shaka," the subtly reggae-tinged "Strictly Rude Boy." But things bog down a bit after that, and they never really awaken again: "Mysterious Mr. Sandobar" offers nothing very fun or interesting, and after its promising Gang of Four-goes-to-Cuba opening, "Lost Vagueness" ends up living up to its title as well. Worst of all is the pointless and wanky "Elevated States," a flabby acid jazz excursion that serves mainly as a too-cushiony bed for guest singer Mustapha Akbar's content-free (and maybe improvised) lyrical musings. Do yourself a favor and hit repeat after about track six — the first half of this album is a solid winner.

Cinescope, Thunderball
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