When one of my former student housemates handed me a copy of UNKLE’s 1998 debut album Psyence Fiction a few years ago I knew it was going to be special. Not only did I have a lot of faith in this particular friend’s recommendations, but the album featured some great cover art by the unmistakable Futura 2000, and the promotional sticker on the front mentioned collaborators like Thom Yorke, Ian Brown, and Richard Ashcroft. Of course it was going to be good.
It didn’t disappoint, in fact it became one of the most listened to albums of my whole 3 year stay at University.
James Lavelle and DJ Shadow had created something truly original. I even used the library’s incredibly slow computers to download the video to Rabbit in your headlights — which, if you haven’t already witnessed, is disturbing, cerebral, and quite brilliant.
The winter of 2004 heralds the return of James Lavelle to American shores, this time teaming up with Richard File to produce 'Never, Never, Land’ — yet another revelation in modern dance music. Collaborators for this new album include vocals from Ian Brown, Brian Eno, Jarvis Cocker and Massive Attack’s inimitable 3D.
After a brief intro, ‘Never, Never, Land’ opens with the ominous “Even now in Heaven there were angels carrying savage weapons” — a track with a not-so-subtle anti-war message, with samplings from the movie ‘A thin red line’ used to great effect.
The album evolves through many atmospheric channels, from the heavy break beats and stomping baselines of Eye for an Eye,
to the thoroughly chilled ambience of In a State or the free-flowing electronica of Invasion. Some tracks like Safe in Mind have obvious rock influences and vocal mixes used in very interesting ways.
Like it’s predecessor, 'Never, Never, Land' is not your average mix of club anthems or dance-floor hits — you’ll not find this at Ibiza this coming summer (except as a Sasha or Digweed remix, perhaps) it is a serious experiment, for fans of originality — a refreshing alternative to more fashionable and generic sounds.