Since the release of his third album, Pre Mil1enium Tension, in 1996, Tricky's seen electronica gain a respectable berth alongside trip hop, the genre he largely invented. Now he's distancing himself from his music bedfellows by evolving even further. Tricky's latest, Angels With Dirty Faces, is a flat-out blues album that, with a sound as modem as the most advanced hip hop, succeeds in consolidating his position as a music maverick. Opening the album with "Mellow," Tricky runs through his cauldron of voodoo voices while a stuttering blues guitar defines the groove. Tricky's slithery rapping has grown increasingly menacing yet less paranoid, but it has also become more slurred. That leaves the mother of his child/vocal foil, Martina, as Tricky's most intelligible voice. In the context of Tricky's music, Mar tina's a great vocalist. When the sista sings or raps, it's all about enunciation. With her dry, spacey accent, she's like Lisa Bonet channeling Billie Holiday.
    Tricky makes you thirsty listening to his parched, raspy voice on "Carriage for Two," a hymn to his daughter: "Hey 'T,' I've got me a little black girl, and this little black girl's beautiful /I try to do what's dutiful / Teach her to lead." In counterpoint, Martina lazily rims key verses and the chorus from "God Bless the Child" over jarring mechanistic beats. It's a family amur of the modern variety. In "Talk to Me," the duo deliver their haunted rap incantations over a random drum pattern and a meandering bass line, creating woozy music smoke rings. Rap as voodoo blues is what Tricky's jamming to-linking him in attitude with late jazz legend Miles Davis. Brothers of the rasp, it makes you wonder: If Miles had been an MC, would he have sounded like this?
    On the last track, "Record Companies," he hocks a well-directed wad of spit at the predatory aspects of the record industry. Ranting in his most agitated spiteful hiss, Tricky taunts: "Now which one of you's gonna be the next niggy / You don't have to worry 'bout them /2Pac holding hands with Biggie." In Tricky's heaven, the two great rappers have already made peace, while down below the rap game nurtures discord for dollars. 
    Angels... is Tricky's White album, or his Black album, depending on your taste in magic. It demonstrates the strengths of traditional songcraft ("Money Greedy", "The Moment I Feared", "You") yet is supported by brave, unorthodox music.
George Pitts

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