Review Summary: Thaws may be fooling us, but he's giving us the impression that he'll be approaching a more converted, mainstream dance album that doesn't lose his signature, still showing us he can keep that sustained dark mood within a jazz and bass heavy album.
When do you stop becoming a trendsetter and end up being one of the conformists? There are inklings within Mixed Race
that suggest Adrian Thaws is trying to ease into the new decade with a quick, painless approach, pointing towards a more open advance with his material. Tricky has struggled with this throughout his music career, especially recently since trip-hop has yet to find any exceptional new talent that compares to his past works with Massive Attack, his own material as was in Maxinquaye
and now the resurging Portishead. Old fans and trip-hop in general seem to take notice when he comes out with something in what seems to be a lean list of talent within such an expansive genre. It's unfortunate too, since it seems Tricky has resisted with both the strides that his contemporaries have made and with himself.
Elaboration is due after that last sentence, after all it is a bold statement. Thaws seems to stick with his style of sometimes growling, raspy sprawl of a voice in which it is entirely unique within the genre, but it is entirely inconsistent within his work after the disaster Blowback
had set within motion. The pop-friendly badness that was only lowered its status by more and more insubstantial guest appearances and a terrible music direction by yours truly. It's all well and good to bleed for your roots, but it gets to the point where Rastafarian guest appearances and vocals that ruin a perfectly exceptional atmosphere has to give for one of in the party - either Tricky or the listeners. And I'm happy to say within Mixed Race
there aren't any cringe worthy line deliveries, substantial guest appearances and the most bass heavy, tight percussion music we've ever seen from Tricky, well almost. The dark, slick, sometimes brutally edgy atmospheres of past works within Maxinquaye
, Pre-Millenium Tension
and Angels With Dirty Face
is mostly gone, but something within Mixed Race
appears to be entirely new to the devout Tricky listener - electronic dancehall disco nights that is empty, but smooth in its delivery. Littered with these groove bass lines are tight percussion that mixes both classic instruments, with Tricky-genuine delivery within "Ghetto Stars" to Echo Minott’s 1992 dance single "Murder Weapon", something not entirely unfamiliar for this man, after all we all remember "Black Steel" on Maxinquaye
, a track held by Public Enemy.
Reminiscent of nothing within his discography except his duo delivery with guests, instead it's as if he's made a conscious decision to strip down every version of himself within his music and bare those layers that were always so clouded. What we get is Mixed Race
, a quick 30 minute affair that nearly explores new territory for the trip-hop veteran, something virgin since he came out with Maxinquaye
. Sure Knowle West Boy
played with this, but when it did it would fail miserably, instead falling back on his influences to the point of redundancy. Oddly Mixed Race
almost feels vacant of Thaws' voice, but though he does make appearances they seem so little and pedestrian he eventually is noticed in the background, almost creeping in with his gruff approach on the opening track and the majority of the album, waiting in the shadows to be heard.
A carousal of rotating singers not named Adrian Thaws, including the 13th youngest of 14 siblings - Marlon pop up everywhere. This seems like a schizophrenic and messy approach for any artist, but as we already now Tricky lives and feeds off of duos, as he did on Maxinquaye
with the fantastic Martina Topley-Bird; Mixed Race
is entirely different. The showcase is rarely on Tricky, but we decidedly do not notice because despite his absence, the majority of the album seems streamlined and perfectly crafted in balancing this. Even the Middle-Eastern dialect within "Hakim" is complimented beautifully by an acoustic guitar that breathes life within every verse. And with a such a short tag of runtime on his latest release it becomes an unfortunate realization that it ends all too soon. Maybe he ran out of ideas, after all this is an entirely new division between his other work, instrumentally that is.
What is puzzling about Mixed Race
is where exactly is this coming from? Could this be the other side of the reggae rap childhood stories that was so prevalent in his life, more importantly in his music and in Knowle West Boy
. We still do get a glimpse of those problems with the beginning of the closing track "From Bristol To London", but it soon vanishes without a trace and becomes more of a hip-hop track then anything Tricky has ever introduced to his audience. It sure is intriguing and a pleasure to see that Thaws is treading on new water for his listeners, but that may seem to be for us, its just that might be where he always was.