Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:5 January 2024
There’s a brand of turn-of-the-millennium electronica that is like the most stylish retro blender you have ever seen in a twenty-dollar a pop juice shop. Starting with cool bass and drum foundations and layering new or unusual flavours on top, Thievery Corporation’s second album is as luscious as an exotic smoothy and as retro-seductive as a well-chilled Brandy Alexander.
Released in August 2000, The Mirror Conspiracy is a delicious cocktail that never overplays its musical ingredients. Whether the flavour is Bossa Nova, Indian, French or West Indian, duo Rob Garza and Eric Hilton are at pains to shine a warm lava lamp glow on the featured style. "Lebanese Blonde", for instance, features guest vocalist Pam Bricker and spacious sitar lines from Rob Myers. "Samba Tranquil" delivers just what it says on the packet. A gentle Brazilian dance piece that will have you tapping your feet, the track also offers a quality electric piano solo over the Fender Rhodes comping. Like many of the fifteen tracks on The Mirror Conspiracy, it doesn’t wear out its welcome; only one piece on the entire 2LP set exceeds five minutes.
Another guest vocalist is Lou Lou, who contributes languid vocals to several pieces including "Shadows Of Ourselves," which also features stylish trumpet lines. Following this with "The Hong Kong Triad", a slinky espionage track, shows the care and indeed fun Garza and Hilton have with sequencing. The filmic elements are strong and vibrant across the record. Here something almost tropical in its’ steaminess, there an intimate glimpse of a shadowy downtown bar. Dim the lights and these tunes will transport you around the world without the need of a TV screen. The final track on the original CD release is a fine example. For "Tomorrow", the Thievery Corporation sampled legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and mixed up something that can only be described as an ambient jungle dream. It’s as exotic as a toucan and cool as an art deco decanter. (In passing, the 2022 vinyl re-issue adds two bonus tracks not on the original release.)
It is the two streams—chill-out DJ smoothness and visually evocative fantasy soundtracks—that make this album a pleasure one can return to again and again. Leaving space in the mix invites us to enter, adding our own images to this varied and relaxing soundtrack.
The Mirror Conspiracy was the band’s most successful album in the US, and for those who enjoy this cool style of world-influenced lounge electronica, it continues to offer aural delights. As for Messrs Garza and Hilton, they added social concerns to their appreciation of different musical styles with subsequent albums addressing humanitarian and political issues while retaining their tasteful exploration of the music of many cultures. File under 'Cool'.
© Bruce Jenkins—January 2024