On this solo release, famed Cypress Hill beat-maker Muggs drops the DJ from his name -- for good reason. Dust
is such an about-face from what I expected that I actually ejected it twice
to make sure that it was the right album. Given the two different directions Muggs's day job has taken, I expected either red-eyed hip hop beats driven to their extreme or competent if not inspired metal. Surprisingly, these fourteen tracks push into brave new territory for Muggs, and will challenge his listeners to put the bong down for a minute and pay attention.
The songs that really caught my ears fall somewhere between the trip-hop of Portishead, the Krishna-hop of Oxygene 23 and the dubby-fuzz of Baby Fox. This translates into smoldering beats, lingering female vocals provided by Amy Trujillo, and a dizzying array of background ephemera. The songs, however, cover a range of styles so broad and surprising that it’s difficult to believe this is the same guy who burst into the spotlight with the annoying whine of "Insane in the Membrane". The opening track, "I Know", sounds like a lost Pink Floyd song; it opens with a slow guitar line draped with hovering feedback. Eventually, this is joined by a pulsing bass, a tasteful rhythm and Trujillo’s breathy vocals. The results are stunning.
"Rain" delves into stylish Brit-rock, combining Josh Todd (ex-Buckcherry) with an easy rolling beat and strings, and finishing up with a children’s choir in a move that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. There's even a tribute to Aphex Twin's noise and rhythm experiments ("Blip"). The track that comes closest to Muggs's other work is "Gone For Good", a menacing number that drips with the greasy vibe that Ice Cube strove for but missed on his War and Peace albums. The hip-hop, however, is entirely dominated by numbers like "Morta" -- which, through Trujillo’s vocals, invokes a feminine Nick Cave sensation.
In fact, Trujillo’s efforts here deserve particular mention. Combining grit and grace, her vocals tap into the vibe of such artists as Jane Jensen, Ruby, and Beth Gibbons. If you like those sounds (I’m an absolute sucker for them), Dust will be a must-by.
While the lack of MCs will disappoint the more single-minded Cypress Hill fans, Muggs's use of a broader range of vocalists (including the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli on the haunting "Fat City") has made it possible for him to expand what he does with his music. In the process, using inventive sounds and solid structures, he has created a damn fine album.