(Hot Records Ltd.)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
After spending much of the last two years in Americana rock band Fistful of Mercy, Dhani Harrison has fully revived his initial music project, the electronica/trip-hop band thenewno2 (named after a character in the classic cult UK TV show The Prisoner). Thefearofmissingout is the band’s first album since 2008’s You Are Here, though a four-track EP, the aptly-named EP002, was released last year.
The current lineup of the band features Harrison, Paul Hicks, Nick Fyffe, Jonathan Sadoff, Jeremy Faccone, and Frank Zummo, blending together traditional rock instruments — guitar, bass, and drums — with keyboards, samples, and assorted random noises. Such a mix could be harsh or grating, but instead the album’s musical mood is more often one of dreaminess, though if you listen to the lyrics/samples you’ll find the songs a bit more disconcerting. The album’s underlying theme is clearly spelled out in its title, which describes that universal worry that however good a time you think you’re having, there’s always a nagging suspicion that something more interesting is happening somewhere else. It helps to make thefearofmissingout a work with a noticeable tension running through it, luring you in, but still keeping you at something of a distance.
The album’s longer numbers (four of the ten songs are five minutes or longer) are the more successful ones, as they’re better able to stretch out and create a suitably hypnotic mood. As in “Hanging On,” which pairs Harrison’s cool voice with that of Thorunn Antonia (of Fields and Beck’s Record Club), starting out quietly, then steadily rising in intensity to create a beguiling swirl of sound. Antonia is one of several guest vocalists, also including Holly Marilyn (The Child), RZA and the Black Knights (who add an edgy texture to “thewaitaround”), and Harrison’s Fistful of Mercy bandmate Ben Harper. But Harrison’s is the dominant presence, and this album is a reminder that he’s willing to explore wherever his musical impulses take him, refusing to be pigeonholed into any one genre, and with a real love of tinkering with various sounds to create distinctive soundscapes.