Adrian Thaws

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As the calendar turned to 2014, rapper, producer, and trip-hop icon Tricky had spent a couple years decrying his classic 1995 debut Maxinquaye, calling it a directionless "coffee-table album," as if it were up to him. Like 2013's False Idols, Adrian Thaws (Tricky's real name) is further proof that the man's ideas about what's good for his future are inversely proportional to his awareness of what's good from his past. This grooving, shifting, murky mix of menace and darkness borrows from the current landscape of pop as few earlier albums do, and borrows with love and admiration, as the bubbling techno of "Nicotine Love" and the A$AP Mob-style beats of key cut "Lonnie Listen" ("I work out everyday and I'm still not fit/My kids are hungry and I ain't got shit") feel all the way live and vital. On the other hand, "I Had a Dream" with Francesca Belmonte is elegant, reserved, and a traditional type of beautiful, slinking across some downtown loft with looped-piano riffs and gruff whispers making it identifiably Tricky. Other songs are identifiably him because of their lazy sway, and yet the Deluxe Edition's closing cut, "Different People," pops with a light funk beat, while the cover of the reggae favorite "Silly Games" -- featuring the album's sweet secret weapon, singer Tirzah -- ain't reggae, but ska, just at an acceptable trip-hop tempo. Lyrically, disgust and disgrace are always close at hand, with sentimental and wistful bits pulling things toward the positive, and if ever there seemed a Tricky album designed for variety night, it's this one, as the second half embraces indie, funk, R&B, and various strains of electronic dance. If False Idols was the return, Adrian Thaws is the great diversification, and if being disappointed with your universally accepted classic inspires greatness like this, then Maxinquaye be damned (but only in Tricky's presence).

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