Friday, 2 January 2015

Ponderosa (with Pitbull)

I have often thought that hip hop died on the day that The Guardian called that bloke out of The Streets a contemporary William Blake. Even if Blake had spat lyrics about going to clubs and not the angels who hung out in his back garden, there's a qualitative difference. 

However, due credit needs to be given to that serial collaborator with the baldy. 

Tricky, on the other hand, had a better way of balancing male and female voices than slapping in a polished rap about partying. The making of Maxinquaye (articles about which seem to be the only critical discourse on this brilliant album) always mention that Martina's vocals were first takes. On Ponderosa, you can hear him giving her the lines.

It is almost impossible to work out the exact lyrics (check out the various websites that try for gibberish transcriptions), but Ponderosa is the one that has bits of Sarah Kane's Crave in it ('I smoke til I'm senseless). It's one of the few tracks from his debut that isn't about depraved sex, concentrating on mental chaos ('the mind's a crowd', indeed) and social coercion ('they lead us outside to the cages'). 

Tricky's relationship with Martina, vocally at least, is minimal on this track (as with other tracks at the start of the album). He acts as a prompt, or mumbling accompaniment, but retains a presence. He is constantly in control, feeding her the lines, softly elaborating. Spectral, he becomes her echo, emphasising the disorientation that the dense production and enunciated words offer.

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