Dense yet accessible, fleeting but full of memorable moments.
Alistair Lawrence 2010-09-15
If Mixed Race’s predecessor, 2008’s Knowle West Boy, was the album where Tricky came home, this is very much its sequel: what his creativity does now it’s back in its groove, rather than stuck in a rut.
For that reason, the familiar smoky, dusty beats and siren song vocals of opener Every Day could almost sound like an alarm bell – 2003’s Vulnerable had a similarly promising start, before unravelling – were it not at the same time soothing, reassuring and, most importantly, brief. Surging into the pacing, synth-infused, suffocating Kingston Logic and his lyrical admission that "It’s not a f****** love song" before jamming on the breaks for the slicing jazz trumpet hook of Early Bird creates a disorientating but consistent trio of opening songs.
Unsurprisingly, he’s retained his eye and ear for recruiting disparately impressive collaborators, so it’s the constant gear-shifting over a relatively short period – Mixed Race clocks in at just under half an hour in total, with only two songs topping three minutes – that gives the album its greatest charm. Ghetto Stars and Murder Weapon are unafraid to revisit the low, heavy riffing of his unfairly maligned 2001 ‘rock’ album, Blowback, while Hakim allows the Algerian guitarist it is named after to derail proceedings with its skittering Eastern melodies, Tricky happy to relocate to the background before gliding forward again on the loose, bluesy swagger of Come to Me that follows it.
On the couple of occasions where Mixed Race does appear to look back musically – such as the pulsating, low-tempo Time to Dance – it’s thankfully not a case of him coasting. Much as Knowle West Boy was rightly praised for him opening up and baring internationalist, musical soul rather than looking inward and dwelling on the vagaries of angst and neurosis, this latest chapter is another bold step. Mixed Race doesn’t last long, but it doesn’t waste its words or notes. Dense yet accessible, fleeting but full of memorable moments, Tricky’s done here what he always does at his best: let the listener share the soundtrack of his involving, nomadic, outsider spirit.
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