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The Independent Culture

This is Tricky's fifth album in five years. His debut, Maxinquaye, was recognised as a scarily revolutionary masterpiece as soon as it was released, if not before. His next three albums were not. Widely perceived as efforts to shake off those fair-weather fans who were after coffee-table trip-hop, the records did their job only too well: Tricky hasn't had a hit in years. Now it's time to make an album that someone might want to listen to again. Juxtapose may be tense and Stygian by anyone else's standards, but there is some clear, structured music and a live band whose strummed guitars can verge on easy listening. Mad Dog's rapping, meanwhile, and the co-production by Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs pulls several tracks towards conventional hip-hop. As for Tricky himself, he no longer insists on missing out at least one consonant and one vowel per word. He has made his most gripping record since Maxinquaye, if not a total return to form. The running time is just 35 minutes, including two mixes of "Hot Like a Sauna", so Juxtapose feels more like an EP of atmospheric film-music clips than a completed album.