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