“The album’s called Mixed Race because being mixed race is the single biggest influence on my music. You sat down at the table in my house and you saw every colour. It’s made me much more open-minded than I could’ve been. I come from both worlds.”
-Tricky on Mixed Race
Tricky spent several years of the oughts on hiatus from recording, but in the past three years he’s returned with 2008′s Knowle West Boy and now Mixed Race. His current aesthetic is more stylistically diverse than the darkly hued electronica of his 90s work. But Tricky’s still not planning to let his music live on the sunny side of the street anytime soon.
On Mixed Race, there’s a plethora of reference points, from Middle Eastern music, supplied by lutenist-singer Hakim Hamadouche, on “Hakim” to Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme” mixed with dancehall on Echo Minott’s 1993 hit “Murder Weapon.” “UK Jamaican” incorporates robo-house synths and beats. As always a number of artists make guest appearance: Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, Jamaican vocalist Terry Lynn, and UK singer Blackman. He even gets some help from a family member: his brother Marlon Thaws.
Perhaps the album’s signature collaboration is with a relative newcomer: the Irish-Italian singer Frankie Riley, whose supple voice graces several cuts on the album. ”Ghetto Stars” pits Riley’s soaring vocal and cinematic string samples against dystopian raspy-voiced sprechstimme and trip hop beats. It serves as a bracing antidote to any and all hip hop odes to the gangster lifestyle, presenting an unvarnished look at urban criminality.
If Tricky hasn’t entirely found a way to make a break with the bleak world view that is central to much of his most compelling work, he’s certainly added new hues to broaden this prevailingly dark palette. That, and fruitful engagement with new musical collaborators, makes Mixed Race an engaging listen.