2001 passed with barely a peep from electronica juggernauts The Chemical Brothers. After secluding themselves in a south London studio for 18 months, the boys are back with an album that may actually merit its own hype.

The Chemicals have had a mixed history since the 1997 release of Dig Your Own Hole, an album that demolished stylistic boundaries and forged a relentlessly innovative path for post-techno. Surrender, however, was released in 1999 when the big beat sound the Chemicals had come to engender was no longer the avant-garde club sound; it was more often heard as muzak in a dot-com office than as ingenuous music for the dance culture.

Offering number four, Come With Us, is a statement of intent. It is the closest to an art album that the Chemicals have produced. Leaving the all brute, no brains approach of big beat far behind, Tom and Ed continue to finesse their sound relying far less on collaborations and far more on warped psychedelic samples.

The first single, “It Began in Afrika,” is an acid tribal-beat monster that stormed the European music scene last summer, but it feels somewhat out of place with the remaining nine tracks. “Come With Us” introduces strings and subtle distorted scaling, while “The State We’re In” is a swirling psilocybin folk elegy.

Heavily influenced by a trancier vibe, Come With Us demonstrates a new and more sophisticated direction for electronica. With the genius of musicians like The Avalanches, skillful studio mixing has been elevated to an art form. The result is cerebral tracks that tower above the adrenaline anthems of the early ’90s.