CD: Martina Topley Bird: Quixotic


It seems unfair to compare Martina Topley Bird's debut album with that of her former partner, Tricky.

Meshing inky rhythms, Tricky's murderous grumble and Topley Bird's insouciant murmur, 1995's Maxinquaye was one of the most startling records of the decade. It was driven and unique, where Quixotic is diffuse and curiously lacking in individuality.

You have to worry when one song, the spiralling, rocky I Wanna Be There, could be sung by PJ Harvey, while another, the nu-soul mooch Soul Food, is sub-Macy Gray.

Topley Bird's voice is honeyed, gritty and utterly distinctive, and few of the songs here do it justice - least of all Too Tough to Die, an otherwise thrilling sample-laden dance track by David Holmes that has her stomping and snarling.

The tracks that impress most are pared-back and eerie: Ilya (part-produced by Tricky), which shimmers and glides like a pool of mercury, and Lullaby, a hypnotic heat haze of floating, almost dissonant guitar. On both, Topley Bird's voice is girlish and aged, sweet and wicked, languid and dripping power. Her desire to experiment is admirable, but an album with 10 more songs like these two might have been dazzling.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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