Tricky fleshes out electronica roots

A superbly written and executed album, Tricky’s Mixed Race displays yet another of trip-hop’s founding artists refusing to go quietly.

Tricky's Mixed Race gives new meaning to the term "world music."

Following efforts by two other tremendous trip-hop/electronic artists, Portishead’s Third and Massive Attack’s Heligoland, Mixed Race bastardizes the genre he helped pioneer with bluesy guitar lines and world music.

Tricky, born Adrian Thaws, released Maxinquaye in 1995 to universal critical acclaim. Along with Portishead’s Dummy (1994) and Massive Attack’s Blue Lines (1991—considered to be the first trip-hop album), Maxinquaye established Tricky as one of British electronica’s lynch-pin artists.

Mixed Race unifies Thaw’s multicultural musical heritage into a stunning work that disappoints only in its brevity. But conciseness in this case is a strength, not a weakness. It didn’t leave me wanting, just wanting more.

“Every Day” heralds the arrival of Tricky’s next stage with its bare-bones, chain-gang blues. Coupling a Keith Richards-plays-for-Tom Waits guitar line with soulful vocals and a hip-hop swagger, the tune announces the album but doesn’t prepare the listener for the sharp turns ahead.

In tandem with the following “UK Jamaican” however–bass and guitar reminiscent of French dance duo Daft Punk and a rap vocal typical of UK hip-hop or “grime”— we stop asking “where’s this headed?” and start asking “where isn’t this headed?” “Early Bird” dredges up Waits again, this time with macabre cabaret jazz and whispery vocals. It’s runner-up for my favorite track.

“Hakim” combines roots-rock, Middle Eastern influences and multi-lingual lyrics.  A true stand-out track, it also makes sense, in conjunction with the liner-note photos, of the album title’s meaning. The rolling, “spy-thriller” guitar, jittery beats and upbeat vocals and trumpet are chuckle-inducing when considering the pistol-dueling imagery of “Murder Weapon”—the irony no doubt intentional.

But conciseness in this case is a strength, not a weakness. It didn’t leave me wanting, just wanting more.

Perhaps the only traditional trip-hop tracks are “Ghetto Stars,” “Really Real” and the closing track “Bristol to London”—vaguely similar in style to the Dust Brother’s soundtrack work (think Fight Club). They make liberal use of buzzing synth-lines and old-school 808-drum machine beats.

Tricky doesn’t lose sight of his early albums, with shades throughout of previous releases. The core is still there, but the diversification is stunning. Like the finest producers of classic hip-hop, Tricky samples from unexpected sources. He successfully pushes beyond the specifics of his sub-genre and its combination of soul, hip-hop and electronica, aiding in its redefinition for the 21st century.

Nick Skiles is a copy editor and contributing writer for The Aviso.

Standout Track: “Hakim”

Genres: Electronic, Trip-Hop, Hip-Hop, World Music, Blues-Rock, Jazz

Malopriate Index: One drug reference (marijuana use). Context—imagery should not be equated with glorification. One instance of strong profanity. Context—arguably frivolous, though possibly in keeping with the rough edges used to paint portrait of ghetto life.

5 out of 5 stars

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5 Responses to “Tricky fleshes out electronica roots”

  1. Randy Townley '96 #

    Sam,

    If that’s the case, then it’s a sad day for all of us. Christian music doesn’t shelter us from the “real world.” It helps focus our lives on God, the one responsible for our salvation and everything in this world.

    I am not against listening to secular music by the way, but for a Christian institution to publish an article similar to this seems way out of line.

    November 22, 2010 at 5:08 am
  2. Sam Taylor #

    Randy,

    Here’s a tip, write a contributing alumni article about the latest CD by Steven Curtis Chapman, or maybe even Chris Tomlin, and see the response from the student body. Christian music is highly irrelevant to the Christian life, its merely an alteration in the lyrics. Plus, it creates a bubble for people to further distance themselves from the real world.

    Malone is a different place than it was in 1996, and for all the right reasons.

    November 7, 2010 at 11:09 pm
  3. Dusty Jenkins #

    Wait, there are good Christian bands?

    November 6, 2010 at 6:18 am
  4. Jess Naramore #

    I’ve never heard of Tricky before, but I will probably check this out solely because Portishead was mentioned. Third is one of my favorite albums at the moment. Thanks for the review.

    November 6, 2010 at 12:06 am
  5. Randy Townley '96 #

    This is really irresponsible journalism for a Christian School.

    I graduated in ’96, worked for the Aviso, and graduated with a degree in Communication Arts.

    Why in the world are the students writing articles about secular music, arguably glorifying them?

    I know the university is supposed to be a place of learning and it’s not a place to stifle the entertainment choices of the students, but why can’t the Aviso publish articles about decidedly Christian bands so that it increases knowledge and awareness of good Christian music on campus?

    I mean, have we forgotten where we have come from that we have to talk about an album that uses profanity and references to using drugs?

    Seriously, where is the utter contempt for this sort of journalism?

    November 2, 2010 at 4:22 pm