There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
By the time UNKLE released Psyence Fiction in late ’98, big-beat techno was about midway through its supposed era of pop importance. The Chemical Brothers and Prodigy had already had their MTV moments, and the hits of Fatboy Slim and the Crystal Method were on the verge of becoming sports-arena fixtures. But something about UNKLE was different—the collaboration of Mo’ Wax label chief James Lavelle (pictured) and DJ Shadow yielded an electronica disc with dirty, swirling breakbeats, an unpredictable universe of influences, and a long list of guest stars. Six years later, Lavelle is back, with a different army of musical accomplices and a new outlook: On Never, Never Land, the millennial paranoia of Psyence Fiction has been replaced with a post-9/11 quest for structure and solid beauty. Lavelle’s longtime London buddy Richard File has supplanted Shadow as chief sidekick, and as a result, the new UNKLE sound is more about moods and melodies and less about drums of death. No rappers make the trip, either; Lavelle relies on vocals from File, the Stone Roses’ Ian Brown, South’s Joel Cadbury, and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme to ensure a human touch. Some of it is still creepy, of course—particularly Homme’s performance—but the overriding aesthetic is purposefully cinematic. Lavelle is a big-picture guy now, and Never, Never Land sounds like wide-angle-lens material. Lavelle and File bring a “decks-and-effects” show of UNKLE tracks to Club Five at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Club Five, 1214 B 18th St. NW. $12. (202) 331-7123. (Joe Warminsky)