Thawed into a puddle of nothing

While trip-hop’s classic triumvirate seems to have all but evaporated in recent years, England’s Tricky has remained rather prolific. It seems as if every other year the famed producer can’t help but drop yet another record onto fans and critics alike for another round of savage scrutiny.

While this may be an exaggeration, it plays to a more important point: Tricky has stretched himself thin over time. With each passing year, 1995’s landmark recording “Maxinquaye” feels increasingly like a freak incident created in some mad producer’s laboratory.

Sure, Tricky has wisely retained the chilled, down-tempo beats and ragged vocal delivery in his musical repertoire, but two decades worth of music has produced just one classic record’s worth of material. Suffice it to say, that’s not exactly a winning record, and Tricky’s latest album, “Adrian Thaws,” is sadly the biggest pin stuck on the board of disappointments.

As with the majority of Tricky’s output, “Adrian Thaws” sports the producer’s trademark slick, darkened aesthetic and infuses it with rapped verses and soulful croons. Unlike most of Tricky’s output, however, “Adrian Thaws” can barely manage to sustain even the faintest pulse.

Album opener “Sun Down” is the worst offender by setting a new standard for electronic elevator music. Plodding along a lifeless beat, the track manages little more than to induce a series of yawns from the listener.

Elsewhere, “Gangster Chronicle” manages to inject some brief life into the record with the pure vitriol of its vocal delivery, but at the end of the day its 2014 and we’re still listening to samples of police sirens in hip-hop. Coming up with a justification for this is an arduous task.

This isn’t to say that “Adrian Thaws” is a wholly negative experience. Beneath the mounds of excess and bland songwriting, there’s the faintest hint of a good track buried somewhere in “Nicotine Love,” a song whose best moments happen to be its most brief.

Similarly, “Something in the Way” comes closest to evoking the Tricky of old, but as with the rest of the album, it ultimately falls short in execution. While the smooth beats and hushed vocals are a nice touch and evoke a pleasant atmosphere, it’s difficult not to feel as if this has been done better years ago by the very same artist. The unpleasant truth, of course, is that it has.

Despite the highly variable quality of Tricky’s post-“Maxinquaye” discography, it’s readily apparent that “Adrian Thaws” isn’t just a poor effort – it’s the epitome of a bottom tier work. At its worst, the record only succeeds in sucking the listener into a vacuum of deadpan pedestrianism, and at its best the record manages to just barely conjure fleeting reminiscences of Tricky’s better recordings.

Yes, it isn’t unusual for artists to falter from time to time, but “Adrian Thaws” failure is compounded given the strength of Tricky’s previous records “Mixed Race” and “False Idols.” Whether this misstep is due more to a lapse of inspiration or a feverish rush to release new music is ultimately irrelevant, because at the end of the day “Adrian Thaws” won’t be remembered by diehard fans, genre enthusiasts, or anyone at all.

Verdict: Monumentally boring and pedestrian, “Adrian Thaws” is one of the year’s most disappointing records and Tricky’s worst album to date.

Grade: D+