Album Review: UNKLE | Where Did the Night Fall

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 05.13.10



Surrender All

in•die \in-dê\adj + chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb

When UNKLE’s latest CD pops up in iTunes, it’s preassigned the “electronica” genre tag. With all of its fuzz guitars, big-beat drumming and the abundance of indie band-fronting guest vocalists like San Fran acid rockers Sleepy Sun and Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees, we’d have thought twice before giving it this classification. But, then again, this all-encompassing project from James Lavelle—and his rotating cast of collaborators—has always been difficult to pin down.

Lavelle, the visionary whose Mo’Wax label introduced us to the likes of Cali’s DJ Shadow and Japan’s DJ Krush, relishes in eschewing any one style, simultaneously freaking his hip-hop roots with bits of indie, psychedelia, Afrobeat, dub and whatever else he fancies. Where Did the Night Fall is no exception. The guest rhythm section, from trippy U.K. jazz outfit the Heritage Orchestra, provides the versatility the Brit craves.

To help keep things in familiar territory, the crashing breakbeat rhythm of “The Answer” recalls classic moments like “Rabbit In Your Headlights” from UNKLE’s breakthrough LP, Psyence Fiction. For the most part, though, things take on much more of a live-band feel. Standout “Caged Bird,” sung by Celebration’s Katrina Ford, gurgles with a nondescript electronic modulation, but the honky-tonk gallop and rolling bop drums make the song.

Elsewhere, as on lead single “Natural Selection,” which taps yet another contemporary stoner band, the Black Angels, we’re whisked off to an era when rock bands were first discovering distortion pedals. This may not be the trip-hop that defined Lavelle’s career, but Night Fall is no less of a fantastic voyage.

— Joshua P. Ferguson



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