Three years after releasing their masterful concept record, “Undun,” The Roots push the boundaries of hip-hop with a conceptually fragmented, cinematic song cycle exploring stories from different points of views. The short, musically diverse work, underlined by R&B and jazz, barely maintains a coherent narrative. While the ambition and musical dexterity is admirable, the work doesn’t feel fully realized. The disc unfolds like an aural equivalent of a Shane Carruth film: Varied narrative strands coalesce into a unique whole with slightly opaque internal logic. Here, though, the song suite never quite reveals itself. The band and guests stitch together characters and scenarios that raise questions and provoke. “When the People Cheer,” with Greg Porn, knowingly winks at hip-hop stereotypes, but the voices seem a bit too self-aware. Highlights, featuring an otherwise severely underused Black Thought, come late. “Dark Trinity” is a richly conceived dialogue while “The Unraveling” is haunted by impending existential dread. This intricate jigsaw needs a few more pieces. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Dark Trinity”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.