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Trip-hop music is traditionally called "sexy" - a label that is easily applied to Tricky's "Maxinquaye". Well obviously there's a sexual inspiration for the pornographic duet "Abbaon Fat Tracks", but in general I'd prefer "stoned" as a label for this supremely laid back music. Tricky's croaky rapping is so relaxed it seems as if he is trying to say the words while moving his mouth as little as possible. Like on the "reduce me, seduce me, dress me up in Stussy" refrain of "Hell is Round the Corner".
But the most distinctive feature is Martina Topley-Bird's singing, which is the source of a lot of this "erotic" talk. It's floaty and sneering in turn, and cheekily expressive. She doesn't disguise her estuary English accent, like on "Ponderosa", with some odd lyrics about "liquid lino". It's a slight culture shock to then hear her sing Public Enemy's rap "Black Steel", about the "brother in a state pen", but this works fantastically well, and rocks. Alison Goldfrapp's breathy voice also slots in well, lending an unearthly feel to "Pumpkin".
"Overcome" is a great smooth tune to open with - with a feel of the title track from Massive Attack's "Protection". It actually uses the same lyrics as "Karmacoma" - I was disappointed to learn that the line was really "when we funk we'll hear beats", and especially so when I listened to it carefully and heard the N! Tricky is liberal with the quotations, using the same sample as Portishead's "Glory Box" on "Hell is Round the Corner", and quoting Japan's "Ghosts" on "Aftermath". There's a brief dabble in some regular hip-hop on "Brand New You're Retro", but the best of the later tracks is "Strugglin'". This is darkly paranoid and aumost asthmatic in its pain.
Maybe not as varied as Massive Attack's stuff, but tastefully chilled and cliche-free. If you don't mind the "sexy" associations. I recall one review that said that putting on this kind of music for seduction was as unsubtle as playing the theme from the Benny Hill show!
February 5, 2004