Unkle return with a sprawling, conceptual triumph in The Road: Part II / Lost Highway. This is maestro James Lavelle’s follow up to 2017’s highly acclaimed The Road: Part I. On this release however, two abstract ideas are imagined over a twenty-two song set. Along with The Road: Part II, fans are given a second slice of joy in Lost Highway. Unkle deliver a strong themed darkness and light scenario, Lavelle is at his deepest, his most intense and produces something of an artistic statement more than just a trip hop, electronic extravaganza.

The rhythmic and drama injected atmosphere that galvanizes The Road: Part II / Lost Highway, is done cleverly by the inclusion of some luminaries from the music establishment who are ever-present within the ether. This cast of players enter proceedings to insert their own personality to the affair, Mick Jones from The Clash/B.A.D, Jon Theodore from Queens of the Stone Age, Dhani Harrison, Tom Smith from the Editors, Ian Astbury from the Cult and Andrew Innes of Primal Scream. The operatic potential of this release is mind-blowing.

With most sagas, the starting point to grab the intention has to be strong. There is no exception here ‘Iter VI: Prologue’ is a four-second introduction to the journey ahead. These ‘Iter’ spoken sections separate and narrate the proceedings, evolving into tracks such as ‘Requiem (When You Talk Love)’. A soulful, reflective sound that grabs the audience by the earlobes and drags them willing or not into Lavelle’s world. ‘Ar.Mour’ is a Massive Attack style assault, Mink and Elliot Smith provide the added touches of bliss, whereas ‘The Other Side’ has a feel of the late David Bowie. This album may appear heavy in content, but it glides along with a spectacular ease, the tracks tumble out with an effortless addiction making time a lesser factor against the soundscape blistering forth.

The haunting rendition of the Roberta Flack cover ‘First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’ will astonish, as does the passionate vocals of Keaton Heston. Followed by a further ‘Iter’ section before the hypnotic Ian Astbury led track ‘Crucifixion / A Prophet’ which stretches further again into the spectral intensity. This Lost Highway section of the album is more subtle, with a gentle elegance. Songs as the Mick Jones fueled ‘Kubrick’, a nod to the twentieth anniversary of the late director, built upon minimalist piano and ambient noise. Indeed, it is almost five minutes in before It opens up, and shifts gear with that unique jangle of Jones guitar.

The Road: Part II / Lost Highway is a rock opera in the vain of classics such as Quadrophenia and American Idiot though the basic premise may not be as obvious as others, the album still captures a very personal journey by its creator. Regardless if there is a third chapter in The Road series, the album stands on its own, an entity wholly enjoyable regardless of story lines or concepts.