Afro Celt Sound System’s third album is, in some ways, its most ambitious project to date — though initially it seems a little unfocused. The opening track, “North Part 1,” verges on the overproduced side, and is a peculiar choice with which to kick off the album. It’s got a big sound, but says very little for six minutes, noodling along like a bit of new age pretension, bereft of any sort of crunch or character until the last few seconds. A collective such as Afro Celt will run the risk of wandering into esoterica any time the Emmerson-McNally-Russell triumvirate becomes too infatuated with melody and the mixing console.Luckily, “North Part 2” pulls back from the stratosphere and develops some serious punch, and when Peter Gabriel steps in for the vocal on “When You’re Falling,” the album finally finds its legs. The arrangement has a brilliant rhythmic pulse and a bright choral component, and the Iarla ” LionŠird lyrics are a thing of beauty made real by Gabriel’s inspired interpretation. The record really fires up from track three onward. “Lagan” and “Shadow Man” are powerful, polyrhythmic sorties, and Robert Plant’s guest vocal on “Life Begin Again” is terrific. The song comes on with the flair of Asian underground, resonating with the sort of synergy that is ACSS at its most compelling.The title track bristles with the kind of kinetic energy that will make the tune an instant club classic, while “Go on Through” mines a more contemplative vein, animated by a wistful bagpipe and a lovely vocal from guest Pina Kollars. Further in Time is ultimately a convincing and conceptually masterful album that stretches the Afro Celt groove in all the right directions.Philip Van Vleck

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