The same problems that plagued Bombay Dub Orchestra's self-titled debut — released as a double-disc set to accommodate a bunch of unnecessary remixes — are notably present on 3 Cities. The duo of Garry Hughes and Andrew Mackay are still trafficking in trip-hop and downtempo beats that are thoroughly anonymous and unadventurous. Furthermore, the two are still clearly more concerned with reflecting the mood of a banker-friendly London cocktail lounge than with delivering any hint of the garish, high-speed grit of downtown Mumbai. In other words, if the question on their debut was why they even bothered to go to Bombay, the curiosity is increased on their new project; the three cities referred to in the title include not just their home of London and their previous work spot in Mumbai but also the addition of Chennai (formerly Madras). As busy, crowded, and humid as Mumbai is, Chennai is twice as much; still, the latter city somehow remains possessed of a languid parochialism that cuts through the steam and smog. Amazingly, Bombay Dub Orchestra captures none of it. Granted, a couple of the songs on 3 Cities are beautiful, swaying pieces of Indo-evocative downtempo; "Journey" and "Junoon" both benefit greatly from the relaxed ease with which they dip into traditional musical and vocal styles. But too often, the material here is resolutely unchallenging and disappointingly unable to evoke more than the slightest, fleeting images of two Indian cities that all but dare you to not be inspired.
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