The third proper full-length by the London DJ collective (following 1995's A Recipe for Disaster and 2000's Kaleidoscope, and not counting the mostly live on radio Now, Listen!) is very different from its predecessors, as one might hope after a dozen years. The change-a-minute beats-and-pieces approach taken on their early work, which competed with their Ninja Tune peers Coldcut for complexity and willingness to throw just about anything over a beat, has been largely abandoned in favor of actual songs and a relative degree of conceptual unity. As its Heavy Metal-ish (the magazine) cover art might indicate, this is a somewhat sci-fi album, with a movie trailer announcer's voice muttering stuff about falling stars and space on the interstitial tracks, like a sampladelic take on Robert Calvert's poetry from Hawkwind's Space Ritual. Guest vocalists like The The's Matt Johnson and J.G. Thirlwell sing about fear and alienation ("How could anyone know me when I don't even know myself," asks Johnson) over backing tracks that combine futuristic momentum with an almost retro-Manchester feel (the keyboards on "Giant" may put some listeners in mind of Charlatans UK) and thick beds of polyrhythmic percussion. "The Illectrik Hoax" is even built around a '60s-ish garage guitar riff. Surprising as it may be, coming from masters of the quick-cut DJ collage, The Search Engine is a journey worth taking from beginning to end, uninterrupted.
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AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman
Magpie Music: Finders Keepers/Eye of the Needle/Bad Vibrations/They Turned Their Faces Down/A Positive No/Translucence/No More Stars/Afraid of the Dark/Bad Vibrations (Reprise)