Albums

$16.49

Trip Hop - Released January 1, 1995 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Tricky's debut, Maxinquaye, is an album of stunning sustained vision and imagination, a record that sounds like it has no precedent as it boldly predicts a new future. Of course, neither sentiment is true. Much of the music on Maxinquaye has its roots in the trip-hop pioneered by Massive Attack, which once featured Tricky, and after the success of this record, trip-hop became fashionable, turning into safe, comfortable music to be played at upscale dinner parties thrown by hip twenty and thirtysomethings. Both of these sentiments are true, yet Maxinquaye still manages to retain its power; years later, it can still sound haunting, disturbing, and surprising after countless spins. It's an album that exists outside of time and outside of trends, a record whose clanking rhythms, tape haze, murmured vocals, shards of noise, reversed gender roles, alt-rock asides, and soul samplings create a ghostly netherworld fused with seductive menace and paranoia. It also shimmers with mystery, coming not just from Tricky -- whose voice isn't even heard until the second song on the record -- but his vocalist, Martine, whose smoky singing lures listeners into the unrelenting darkness of the record. Once they're there, Maxinquaye offers untold treasures. There is the sheer pleasure of coasting by on the sound of the record, how it makes greater use of noise and experimental music than anything since the Bomb Squad and Public Enemy. Then, there's the tip of the hat to PE with a surreal cover of "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," sung by Martine and never sounding like a postmodernist in-joke. Other references and samples register subconsciously -- while Isaac Hayes' "Ike's Rap II" flows through "Hell Is Around the Corner" and the Smashing Pumpkins are even referenced in the title of "Pumpkin," Shakespear's Sister and the Chantels slip by, while Michael Jackson's "Bad" thrillingly bleeds into "Expressway to Your Heart" on "Brand New You're Retro." Lyrics flow in and out of consciousness, with lingering, whispered promises suddenly undercut by veiled threats and bursts of violence. Then, there's how music that initially may seem like mood pieces slowly reveal their ingenious structure and arrangement and register as full-blown songs, or how the alternately languid and chaotic rhythms finally compliment each other, turning this into a bracing sonic adventure that gains richness and resonance with each listen. After all, there's so much going on here -- within the production, the songs, the words -- it remains fascinating even after all of its many paths have been explored (which certainly can't be said of the trip-hop that followed, including records by Tricky). And that air of mystery that can be impenetrable upon the first listen certainly is something that keeps Maxinquaye tantalizing after it's become familiar, particularly because, like all good mysteries, there's no getting to the bottom of it, no matter how hard you try. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
$7.49

Trip Hop - Released January 1, 1998 | Circa

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Increasingly ignored amidst the exploding trip-hop scene, Massive Attack finally returned in 1998 with Mezzanine, a record immediately announcing not only that the group was back, but that they'd recorded a set of songs just as singular and revelatory as on their debut, almost a decade back. It all begins with a stunning one-two-three-four punch: "Angel," "Risingson," "Teardrop," and "Inertia Creeps." Augmenting their samples and keyboards with a studio band, Massive Attack open with "Angel," a stark production featuring pointed beats and a distorted bassline that frames the vocal (by group regular Horace Andy) and a two-minute flame-out with raging guitars. "Risingson" is a dense, dark feature for Massive Attack themselves (on production as well as vocals), with a kitchen sink's worth of dubby effects and reverb. "Teardrop" introduces another genius collaboration -- with Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins -- from a production unit with a knack for recruiting gifted performers. The blend of earthy with ethereal shouldn't work at all, but Massive Attack pull it off in fine fashion. "Inertia Creeps" could well be the highlight, another feature for just the core threesome. With eerie atmospherics, fuzz-tone guitars, and a wealth of effects, the song could well be the best production from the best team of producers the electronic world had ever seen. Obviously, the rest of the album can't compete, but there's certainly no sign of the side-two slump heard on Protection, as both Andy and Fraser return for excellent, mid-tempo tracks ("Man Next Door" and "Black Milk," respectively). ~ John Bush

Genre

Trip Hop in the magazine
  • Tricky goes East
    Tricky goes East On Skilled Mechanics which came out in 2016, Adrian Thaws (a.k.a. Tricky) never emerged from the darkness. The same is true for Ununiform, his thirteenth album that he published a year later. Disc after disc, the British artists reminds us that he is without a doubt the most gifted painter/singer...