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Album Review: Thievery Corporation – Suadade

3 min read

All the way back in 1995, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton first met at Hilton’s Washington DC nightspot and formed the nucleus of what would become the rotating collective of downtempo electronica artists we know today as Thievery Corporation. With a perpetually evolving sound that’s always sat a little left of center, you may know them best from their sitar-sampling tune Lebanese Blonde from the cutesy motorcycle scene in Zach Braff’s 2004 heartwarmer Garden State. Not to say that Thievery Corporation have fallen off since then, in fact they’ve released four more albums in the interim with their fifth (and seventh record overall) Suadade poised to make some deliberately gentle waves throughout the music scene this month.

thieverycorporation-saudadeIf you’re unfamiliar with what the term “Bossa Nova” entails, then you need look no further than this record. Originating in Brazil throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, it translates as “new trend” and takes as much from the percussive momentum of samba as it does from the harmonic sophistication of European jazz. Start to finish; Suadade straddles a similar divide between a rainy, potentially hung-over Sunday morning and dreamy, French chic.

The tone for the record is set with the first plucks of nylon guitar strings, whispered piano, tastefully cautious percussion and the mysteriously ethereal vocals on album opener Decollage. Unfortunately, for at least the first half of the entire record, this tone virtually doesn’t change one bit. The following tracks Meu Nego, Quem Me Leva, Fireflight and Sola in Citta are sadly pretty indistinguishable with the same sonic palate – classical guitar, languid strings, shakers, congas and hushed female vocals – being employed each time with very little variation. Not to say that it isn’t done well; Garza and Hilton have always curated a stellar cast of guest collaborators for Thievery Corporation but if you want more out of a record than something placid to ignore while tucking into a greasy, remorseful café brunch after a night of Carnivalé-level decadence, then Suadade will sadly leave you wanting.

Thankfully the album’s second half shakes things up a little, starting with the dark, film-noir overtones and existential musing of No More Disguise. The instrumental title-track continues with the same straight-up-and-down Bossa Nova vibe whereas the eerie organ on Claridad skirts with some mid-‘90s Bristol Trip-Hop aesthetics to haunting effect. Spacey synths and samples provide a little respite from the overtly traditional one-note feel of most of Suadade and the same can be said about the reverbed-out sax and glockenspiel on Le Coeur. The urgent clave-rhythms on Para Sempre are definitely the jauntiest of the record and even then, they could lull you into a beautiful slumber and this has to be the record’s intended purpose.

Closing out with Bateau Rouge and first single Depth of My Soul which we first heard back in late January and features the smoky, mournful howl of former Bitter:Sweet member, LA songstress Shana Halligan. It’s by far the most accessible song on Suadade and with cascading piano and lilting strings underscoring this traditional jazz ballad, it sounds (in a definitely positive way) like a long lost gem from Portishead’s Dummy sessions.

Overall, Suadade washes over you like one big dream. There’s very little on offer to break up the sameness that’s prevalent from beginning to end but if subdued, classy café jazz is your bag then this will probably be your record of the year as its clear focus on making a “Bossa Nova” record is undeniably well executed. It’s as smooth as velvet drenched in cognac but if, however, you like literally anything other than subdued, classy café jazz, then this is probably a record you can afford to let pass you by.