'Let No One Live Rent Free In Your Head' offers a snapshot of where British fringe pop is situated in the middle of 1996: everywhere at once

Nicolette Let No One Live Rent Free In Your Head Talkin' Loud 532 634-2
Following Shara Nelson and Tricky, another offshoot of the Massive Attack trip-hop academy makes her album debut. It's a decent enough offering, adventurous rather than populist, though it doesn't quite live up to the promise of last year's single, "No Government".

Present here in two substantially different mixes, that track is still the best thing on the album - Nicolette's simplistic anarchist sentiment set against either the twitching, mechanistic backdrop constructed by remixers Plaid, or, more comfortably, the shuffling groove of her own original mix. Elsewhere, the other producers drafted in to offer different views of Nicolette's songs sometimes seem to be viewing them from another country entirely - particularly Alec Empire, whose distorted, rasping techno barrages on "Nightmare" and "Nervous" may be appropriate to the subject matter, but are hardly the "pleasure attack" of which she sings on the latter.

The lazy double-bass groove of Dego's "Just to Say Peace and Love" is more in line with her talents, and Nicolette herself demonstrates a natural sensitivity to her own voice with the marimbas and gongs of "Always". It's a strangely plain voice, favouring clarity over character, and it often seems stranded in the exotic surroundings, as if she might prefer a straight, jazzy backing to these more complex soundscapes.

The discomfort works to best effect on the updated Black Star Liner theme of "Song for Europe", and there are signs of how effectively it might be presented in the multi-tracked counterpoints of the chorus of "Beautiful Day", intertwining against the heavily compressed, triggered synth rushes of the backing track. Impressively varied, Let No One Live Rent Free In Your Head offers a snapshot of where British fringe pop is situated in the middle of 1996: everywhere at once.

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