One of the music world’s last provocateurs returns. Tricky, one of thefew remaining trip-hop powerhouses making music since the ’90s, offers up Mixed Race, his ninth studio album, and second following a five yearhiatus between 2003 and 2008. It has the Knowle West native embracinga number of musical styles, which has become his trademarkover the years, and as always has his suave, sexual, and occasionallyaggravating demeanor coats the music thickly.
The most immediately striking thing about Mixed Race is just howshort it is, completing its 10 song run in under a half hour. There’sstill an absence of immediacy to his music, for Tricky primarily relies onabstract, deeply textured songwriting – squalling synth andfuzz-flecked guitars both find homes here, but it’s just a muchshorter ride than usual. It feels truncated, but the record does getits ideas out on an elemental level.
Mixed Race’s deeper cuts provethat the now 40 year old artist has a lot left in the tank. As thetitle implies, Mixed Race has Tricky pulling sounds out of a broadnumber of cultures. It adds up a bouncy bhangra in Hakim, a sparse,creaky blues jangle in Every Day, a future-funk, Daft Punk referencingbanger in Kingston Logic, and his own anglo-rules trip-hop throughout.So it’s a surprise to how seamless the album turned out – despitetheir clashing personalities the collection keeps a downtempo gracepulsing near its heart, shaving down what would’ve otherwise been arather schizophrenic listen.
Unfortunately there’s not a lot of reward to Mixed Race, with30 minutes and a whole pocketbook full of ideas he could’vepulled out a big centralized anthem to hang the album’s legacyon. Instead we get lead single Murder Weapon, a tinny, lifeless song that makes the listener reconsider all thegoodwill they’ve been attributing to the artist. Why Tricky, in amidst of an album of hooky left-field oddballs, would pick one of thedullest songs he’s ever penned to release to radio is beyond. Why he would make such a safe andeasily criticized career choice ismind-boggling; it’s not like he doesn’t have a reputation to uphold,and no diehard fan is listening to Tricky for watered down electro -not when you have slinky acid-jazz (Early Bird) or inter-lappingstring samples (Ghetto Stars) in your arsenal.
But Mixed Race isn’t frustrating as an album – for half an hour it’s a surprisingly kaleidoscopic work which shows you glimpses ofmusicology the westernized world has pushed out of view. Yes itsweighed down by some empty dancefloor tat, but it’s probably thestrongest record work Tricky has put out this decade; definitely muchmore of a comeback than Knowle West Boy was.