The third proper full-length by the London DJ collective (following 1995's A Recipe for Disaster
and 2000's Kaleidoscope
, and not counting the mostly live on radio Now, Listen!
) is very different from its predecessors, as one might hope after a dozen years. The change-a-minute beats-and-pieces approach taken on their early work, which competed with their Ninja Tune peers Coldcut
for complexity and willingness to throw just about anything over a beat, has been largely abandoned in favor of actual songs and a relative degree of conceptual unity. As its Heavy Metal-ish (the magazine) cover art might indicate, this is a somewhat sci-fi album, with a movie trailer announcer's voice muttering stuff about falling stars and space on the interstitial tracks, like a sampladelic take on Robert Calvert
's poetry from Hawkwind
's Space Ritual
. Guest vocalists like The The
's Matt Johnson
and J.G. Thirlwell
sing about fear and alienation ("How could anyone know me when I don't even know myself," asks Johnson
) over backing tracks that combine futuristic momentum with an almost retro-Manchester feel (the keyboards on "Giant" may put some listeners in mind of Charlatans UK
) and thick beds of polyrhythmic percussion. "The Illectrik Hoax" is even built around a '60s-ish garage guitar riff. Surprising as it may be, coming from masters of the quick-cut DJ collage, The Search Engine
is a journey worth taking from beginning to end, uninterrupted.