Knowle West Boy is lush, chill electronica, a great trip-hop album from an artist who hates being labeled as trip-hop. The title of this record pays tribute to Knowle West, the impoverished but prideful Bristol neighborhood where Tricky grew up.

Once a member of Massive Attack, Tricky—born Adrian Thaws —reluctantly achieved individual stardom after the 1995 release of Maxinquaye, named for his deceased mother. Since then, he’s become a pop cultural Renaissance man, doing everything from acting in the The Fifth Element and Tool’s “Parabola” video to dating Björk. This album still manages to be one of his most impressive achievements.

Tricky’s characteristic whispered, half-spoken singing style is best on “Far Away,” which is just so fucking cool. But the female vocals on Knowle West Boy deserve mention—check out “Past Mistake” and “Cross To Bear,” which are almost eerily beautiful.

The weakest tracks are also the most conventional— and, therefore, out of Tricky’s element. In particular, “C’Mon Baby” and “Council Estate” are laden with a weird, misplaced punk vibe. But they’re not awful, just mediocre.

In A Word: Surreal

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