Tricky / Maxiquaye / 1995

Sound Sample: Tricky / Maxinquaye /

There I was sitting on the bed of my best-friend’s older sister. Margorie was a stunning girl. Tall with long sliky dark hair and amazing eyes. And she would occasionally invite me into the private domain of her bedroom to listen to music and talk. I enjoyed these sessions with her. I suppose she made me feel very special. But I digress. Unfortunately, on this particular day, we were joined by Margorie‘s boyfriend who wanted to play his newly aquired copy of Humble Pie’s Rockin’ the Filmore on her stereo. Accidentally putting on side-two with the 24:30 I Walk on Gilded Splinters. (Dumb fuck that he was). I lay across the bed listening and watched boyfriend from the corner of my eye. He always wore the same confident smile. And I hated him. The sinister darkness within the music was, oddly enough, articulating my own mood. I had understood delicious nastiness of Under My Thumb and Sympathy for the Devil clearly wasn’t about rainbows and unicorns. This was different.The long instrumential portions of the song hinting at something more complex. A dark heat beneath the surface of the music that echoed my own thoughts;

Roll outta my coffin / Drink poison in my chalice / Pride begins to fade / And y’all feel my malice / Put gris-gris on your doorstep / Soon you’ll be in the gutter / I can melt your heart like butter / A-A-And I can make you stutter / Kon-kon, the kiddy kon-kon / Walk on glided splinters / Til I Burn Up…Til I Burn Up.

Honestly, that listening session in Margorie’s room left me cold. Even putting me off music for a few days. But it wasn’t long before I was seeking out the original version of the song. If Humble Pie hinted at the song’s dark potential, then Dr. John‘s original is a voodoo nightmare. Full of creeping tales of dread and loathing. This was the music that entertained the hidden malice within all of us. A topic all but forgotten in the modern music world. With only a few albums are capable of generating the heat and insight of Dr.John’s Gris-Gris (1968); the disturbing third album by Public Image Limited, the Flowers of Romance(1981). The Cure‘s petrifying Faith (1981) and Trickys 1995 solo debut Maxinquaye.

Memories of children’s dreams / Lie lifeless / Fading lifeless / Hand in hand with fear and shadows / Crying at the funeral party / I heard a song and turned away / As piece by piece you performed your story / Noiselessly across the floor / Dancing at the funeral party / I heard a song and turned away / As piece by piece you performed your story / Noiselessly across the floor / Dancing at the funeral party

Maxinquaye is a boiling cauldron of those toxic noises. The music oozing from our collective amnesia. Tricky addressing our own wordless thoughts and unthinkable ideas. Shaking us from the grip of a societal-hypnotism that is all around us. The low-tempo ambiance and dark, thick electronic dub is the starting point. The molten sound hitting much closer and harder then then any voodoo rhythms of Gris-Gris. The atmosphere throughout Maxinquaye is dense and oppressive.The layered vocals of Tricky and co-vocalist Martina Topley-Bird spinning off-kilter with a random disregard for pitch and time signature. The music coming together only moments before complete collapse. Seemingly held together by little more then force of will and desire. A poetic drug-rap that flows from one disjointed vocal to the next. Elements of hip-hop, techno and experimental-ambient driving these tales of cultural decline. A backdrop of fear clutters each track like the streets of Tricky‘s adolescences.

All of which doesn’t appreciate the real beauty of the music to be found here.The inspired jazz flute drops on Aftermath. Owning more to Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan than anything produced in the jazz genre. Aftermath is an amazing moment on Maxinquaye. The song revealing Tricky’s true depth and love for music. The album is peppered with these truly musical interludes. Providing a frame to the centeral theme; a warning that our civilivation has begun to eat itself with poverty, suicide and social abandonment. The meal has already begun.

Mind your business / I pass my idle days with my idle ways / Til the twelfth of always / She walks my hallways / I keep her warm but we never kiss / She says I’m weak and immature / But its cool / I know what money is for / Push comes to shove, her tongue’s her favorite weapon of attack / I slap her back, she mostly hates me.

Lost, paranoid and hateful towards a dominant culture, Maxinquaye reveals the disintegrating landscape across the globe. The world isn’t haunted by zombie-ghosts or gris-gris. There is no need for that foolishness. The economic, political and cultural monsters are real. Which bring us back to the thoughts of collective amnesia. Let’s consider the idea further; is the entirety of the Western Empire under the influence of some mass hypnoses that is self impose and enforce? The clues are everywhere. What is the rational response to a growning homelessness, poverty, declining education, massive incarnation. starvation and enviromental disaster? To focus on the positive and smile? To shop on Amazon while the skies dies? The entire structure of the prevailing system compels us daily to “think positive” in the face of systemic racism, imperialism and endless war.

Staying positive is pure insanity. Tricky’s Maxinquaye doesn’t ask to awaken our consciousness. We are beyond such privileged requests. Hell is Around the Corner.

Now in the summer / I could be happy or in distress / Depending on the company / On the veranda / Talk of the future or reminisce / Behind the dialogue / We’re in a mess / Whatever I intended / I sent you flowers / You wanted chocolates instead / I’ve got binoculars / On top of Box Hill / I could be Nero / Fly the eagle / Start all over again / I can’t depend on these so-called friends / It’s a pity you need to defend / I’ll take the furniture / Start all over again


Keith Hudson / Playing It Cool and Playing It Right / 1981

Yeah…it was really VERSION those days – it wasn’t dub yet beca’ it was jus’ the riddim. One day an incident: Ruddy’s (sound system operator Ruddy Redwood) was cutting dub, an when it started, Smithy(recording engineer Byron Smith) look like ‘im start bring on the voice and Ruddy’s say: no, make it run and I’m take the whole backing track off it, Im say, alright, run it again, and put in the voice. “im didnt do no more like that yet

The DJ then played a vocal version seperated from the instrumental version at a dance. It was very popular

The next day now, im start it and just bring in the tune, bring in a little voice and drop it out again…yes. Ruddy use to handle that part himself, drop in the voice and drop it out again. All Smithy do was cut the dub….

Description of “DUB” by Producer Bunny Lee

Let’s just get this out in the open; Public Image Limited’s Metal Box (1979) or Second Edition , as it was known to me at the time, is the single most important “rock” album, in terms of influence, to come along since it’s release. (That is post-1979/80). Think about it. Only the Velvet Underground’s White Light / White Heat dares to approach it’s greatnesses. And that was 1968. OK, let’s throw in The Night Tripper’s Gris Gris and Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain as dark horse candidates. Released in 1968 and 1971, respectively. So, it is settled. Metal Box = Most Important or Influencial Album. These are polarizing statements, of course. And then there is always someone shouting about that damn “Bollocks” album. Fair enough. Let us take a closer look.

John Lydon’s Public Image Limited accomplished something that Johnny Rotten’s Sex Pistols could never manage. That is, PIL‘s music had a scared-the-pissout-of-you quality that Bollocks just was not capable of delivering. For all of the tough talk, posturing and claims of greatness, Bollocks never convinced with it’s revoluntionary rhetoric. The songs are just too orthodox. The production is just too big. And the band was just too manufactured to be a serious threat. But PIL was different. PIL was subversive at their core. The band, the image…the sound sought to circumvent the lie at the heart of the music industry. And for many of us, it had a sound we had never heard before. Thick, dark, cinematic and experimental …Dub. Metal Box openned the door to the possibilities of music and all that it can teach us.

Keith Hudson‘s “Playing It Cool & Playing It Right” was originally released in 1981 on Hudson‘s own, Joint International label. Finally giving Hudson the artistic freedom he wanted to move deeper into the experimental sound of the Jamaican underground. Remember, by 1981 dub was an established art form and musical style. The dub sound inhabiting a space and time that was a completely and uniquely the creation of the island’s best reggae producers (Lee Perry, King Tubby…and Keith Hudson). And unlike other forms of experimental music, Dub used a organic, lo-fi approach the chemistry of sound. Fusing together a complex world of nocturnal rhythms and scattered, narcotic vocals.

Hudson plays a unique role in the production and evolution of dub. Choosing not to drive his music with guitars or vocals or rhythms. Instead, Hudson lays back with the mix. Never sounding overcooked or cluttered with studio trickery. The thick width of sound is the bedrock from which Hudson’s subterranean enviroment can grows and communicate. Molten hot and sexual, one moment. Then playful, personel or melancholic with a twist in the sound. Formula Dub is a prime example. The sentimental, broken chords of a piano haunting the background of the music as the heavy pulse of rhythm slowly overtakes track. Each moment of sound surrendering to the next. Every change sending the music in different directions.

Keith Hudson‘s Playing it Cool is a rare gift. Thoughtful and provative with a minimalist approach. Exploring the experimental and avant-garde without losing the soul of the music. Hudson’s musical vision is never blurred or overwhelmed or detached by the tools of his experimentation. And here an important point needs to be made; Playing it Cool is a beautiful record. Which may seem a strange and out-of-place observation. There is a shimmering love and, yes, a romance at the heart of the music. A touching reminder that there is much to treasure within the broken soul of an artist or a lover. Much is lurking under the surface. However intangible these factor may appear, we should rage against the surrender of that which makes us most human.