The Black Keys have been a model of consistency throughout their first four albums, relying on little more than Dan Auerbach's deep, bluesy vocals and searing guitar licks atop Patrick Carney's thunde

The Black Keys have been a model of consistency throughout their first four albums, relying on little more than Dan Auerbach's deep, bluesy vocals and searing guitar licks atop Patrick Carney's thunderous drumming to build an enthusiastic fan base. No bass, no horn section, and up until now, no producer.

That's all changed on "Attack & Release," due this week via Nonesuch. Danger Mouse (whose real name is Brian Burton) first approached the Keys last year to assist him with an album he was producing for the late Ike Turner. Auerbach and Carney sent several backing tracks Burton loved, but ultimately only a few songs were completed with Turner before the project was shelved.

Throughout, Burton realized he had something else in mind -- a new Black Keys album that he would help steer. Suitably convinced of their common tastes, Auerbach, Carney and Burton hunkered down at Suma Studios outside Cleveland last fall and tracked "Attack & Release" in just 11 days. Throughout, Auerbach and Carney let go of any hesitation to incorporate additional instrumentation or experiment with new and unusual song structures.

"We learned a lot from him, especially detaching yourself from whatever preconceived ideas you had about what you were doing," Carney says over coffee in an Akron cafe. "Once Brian got onboard, there were absolutely no rules," Auerbach adds. The creative partnership is best realized on tracks like the banjo- and organ-flecked opener "All You Ever Wanted"; rave-up/first single "Strange Times," which features piano and ghostly backing vocals; and the bare-bones "Same Old Thing," which sports bongo drums and flute.

"I know I wasn't prepared for how well we'd get along," Burton says. "We were instant friends. We figured, 'We'll be doing this for a long time, and the music will just be the fun thing we do when we hang out together.' It never bogged down, and there was never a question of what to do. It was a really fun working environment."