Q-Burns Abstract Message's third album, 2001's Invisible Airline, signals his wide-ranging intentions by kicking off with a decidedly lo-fi indie rock intro and rapidly encompassing mid-tempo house, hip-hop, trip-hop, U2-style arena rock, and Moby-style R&B poaching. The house music fetish of Q-Burns' éminence grise DJ/producer Michael Donaldson, previously displayed on his debut singles collection Ouevre and sophomore effort Feng Shui, connects the dots in this quicksilver vocal and instrumental collection, supplying a unifying backdrop that's fleshed out with his bred-in-the-bone organic eclecticism. Featured vocalist Lisa Shaw is ideally suited to Donaldson's twists and turns, conjuring by turns a breathy Portishead-style ice-queen persona on "Differently"; a traditional pop singer on the infectious "Shame"; and on "Drifting Off," a diva who is one part Kirsty MacColl, two parts Debbie Harry, and wholly unique. Elsewhere, the traditional "Motherless Children" gets a new infusion of life as "Mother's Dead," co-opting the authentic Delta vocals of Fat Possum recording artist Elmo Williams along the way and incorporating an eccentric guitar that slides in and out of the mix like an alligator through Mississippi mud. Where Invisible Airline could have been a wild, bumpy ride through early 21st century pop idioms, Donaldson's savvy, seamless production ensures maximum listener compatibility.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Goulding