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Trip-Hop Magic

Tension 2000: Tricky puts a new spin on a multitude of genres on his most recent album, 'Pre-Millennium Tension.'

Photo by Ruven Afanador

The mutant music of Britain's gravel-throated Tricky defies categories at Lollapalooza

By Nicky Baxter

LAST YEAR'S Lollapalooza was a headbanger's feast, with headliners Soundgarden and Metallica cranking out post­Led Zep metal. It's not what founder Perry Farrell had in mind for his alternative Woodstock. This year, Lollapalooza features acts a little harder to define. That is especially true in the case of Bristol boy wonder Tricky. Before the gravel-throated singer and producer arrived on the scene, Britain was relegated to second-class citizenry in hip-hop. And then this odd-looking black Brit with a short attention span produced trip-hop: an intoxicating melange of woozily soulful psychedelic, rap, dub, blues and more woven together to produce a mutant new music.

True, outfits such as the pioneering U.K. troupe Massive Attack, of which Tricky was a key member, had began to expand beyond hip-hop's sometimes rigid borders, but the 28-year-old musician's surrealistic take on the genre has raised the stakes considerably. His 1994 Maxinquaye album blew the lid off British charts, while at the same time fostering many imitators. None, however, has managed to surpass the languorous genius of that recording. Pre-Millennium Tension (Island) is, if anything, more furiously adventurous than his debut album. Pre-Millennium Tension's extraordinary eclecticism has yet to be fully digested by U.S. hip-hop's hierarchy. With lazily undulating backward guitars that recall Jimi Hendrix, circa Are You Experienced?, oil-can drum sounds and lyrics that quote Grand Master Flash, "Vent" roils with barely suppressed rage. "Christiansands" find Tricky and co-vocalist Martine putting a new spin on reggae. The former's doomsday growl is the perfect foil for his partner's school-girl soprano. Tricky is more than just the "king of trip-hop." His extraordinary music's much too deviant for such an ordinary name tag.

Tricky performs at Lollapalooza on Saturday (Aug. 16) at 2pm at Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View; 2pm; $29.50/$24.50; also Friday at Concord Pavilion. (BASS)

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From the August 14-20, 1997 issue of Metro.

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