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*** TRICKY, "Pre-Millennium Tension," Island

November 17, 1996|D. James Romero

Tricky's official sophomore album smokes with the slow-burning hip-hop reminiscent of his recent, prolific work (such as his pseudonymous Nearly God collaboration) and sizzles with his trademark cynicism and paranoia.

Few others (DJ Shadow, the Chemical Brothers) program beats as wicked as his. The 28-year-old rapper-producer from Bristol, England, draws out the low frequencies like a snake charmer and adds the freakiest loops and clearest vocal filters. These qualities come through on "Tricky Kid," a jaded ode to stardom ("Everybody wants me to make them naked and famous," he raps) and "Bad Dream," which includes the vocals of longtime collaborator Martina Topley-Bird and a drum track that is simply evil.

Tricky suffers only from self-imposed limits. He disses English genres--trip-hop and jungle--that have revitalized alternative pop by reinterpreting American hip-hop with fantastic results. And, like many sophomore efforts, it's hard to stand next to a groundbreaking debut (in this case, 1995's "Maxinquaye"). "Pre-Millennium Tension" stands hard and true--but it's not the kind of genre-buster Tricky has trained his fans to expect. Given Tricky's omnipresence in the studio, this album has left music watchers still waiting on his next giant step.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good), four stars (excellent).

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