According to UNKLE's James Lavelle and DJ Shadow, "Psyence Fiction" is a concept album. Historically, even the best concept albums are overambitious efforts with songs too long for airplay (see Radiohead's "O.K. Computer"). And too often no one gets it.
The "concept" is elusive on UNKLE's first full-length recording. Indeed, "Psyence Fiction" lacks the coherence to give it the proper gestalt, and the whole falls short of the sum of its parts. But those parts are brilliant. On "Lonely Soul" and "Rabbit in Your Headlights," the Verve's Richard Ashcroft and Radiohead's Thom Yorke, respectively, turn in thrilling guest vocals, backed by Shadow's gauzy turntable fusion of jazz, rock and breakbeat magic.
Shadow's instrumental "UNKLE (Main Title Theme)" is nothing short of genius, and the downbeat touch of "Bloodstain" and hip-hop thrash of "The Knock" are standout tracks. However, it is the album's tortured, creepy atmospherics that tie everything together. For listeners with a yen for said atmospherics, "Psyence Fiction" is a schizophrenic masterpiece.
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