The ingredients -- electronic beats, dub, soft Brazilian tones, sitars, and women singing in foreign languages -- are entirely the same, but Thievery Corporation have never sounded so genuine. Despite the same old sound and a busy release schedule leading up to it, The Cosmic Game comes across as fresh as a debut and surprisingly indifferent toward being the in thing. What it is is music for music's sake, all laid out with the utmost care, giving listeners a fully thought-out album that makes the "forward" button on your CD player purposeless. Effortlessly flowing from the indie-grooving "Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)" with the Flaming Lips to reggae to samba to psychedelia and beyond, the album is trimmed of all fat. Instrumentals with clever grooves sometimes overstayed their welcome on previous Thievery albums, but here they're whittled down to interludes when need be and positioned as chillout segues between the more striking numbers.
The druggy, Perry Farrell-inna-reggae-style "Revolution Solution" is one of these stunners, but the superstars don't own all the highlights. As dank, Jamaican-flavored horns echo into the distance, siren Sista Pat lures listeners into the deep world of "Wires and Watchtowers" while soulful crooner Notch takes things uptown on the cool "Amerimacka" before the Corp turn the tune into one of their stickiest dub outings yet. The pleasant "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter" deserves mention because David Byrne guests on vocals, and while it's very good, it's the most forgettable number on this outing. The track brings a very slight reminder of when Thievery Corporation have let ambition trump the meaningful and meaty, but the otherwise purposeful and certain Cosmic Game is so darkly delicious you have to admit it's their masterwork.