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MUSIC REVIEW: Tricky Bizzniss establishes own identity

When a male electronic act uses a female vocalist in its sound, the singer rarely has much voice in the matter. She merely sings and the guys process the results, chopping them up and using them like an instrumental part.

Yet Trixie Reiss, a former vocalist for the Crystal Method, aims to make more of a name for herself as half of the duo Tricky Bizzniss. Working with veteran producer Ernie Lake, Reiss crafts a self-titled debut for her act that establishes her as a well-rounded star performer and not simply a bit player.

Imagine Goldfrapp or even Fergie as the prototype.

"Tricky Bizzniss" is primarily a dance/electronic release - that's clearly the genre that best suits both Reiss and Lake. Her sassy attitude, high voice and pop/soul-lite delivery mesh especially well with Lake's playful, 1980s-style chiming synthesizers and bubbling bass on grinding club songs like "Cybertronic," "Whirlwind Life" and the single "Day to Day." And Tricky Bizzniss swings to the extremes within the genre - from the electro-pop/bubble-gum dance cut "Familiar" to a "Jet Set Ride" bustling with layers of electric agitation and hustling rhythm.

All those tracks will suit fans of Reiss' work with Crystal Method, but she's shooting for something more diverse here. Hence the buzzing rock undercurrent of "Tonight's Your Lucky Day," the throbbing reggae slant of "Love Ain't Money" and the cacophonous chorus of "So Long."

As the Tricky Bizzniss lyricist, Reiss also attempts to tackle more abstract and philosophical notions than typical of a dance release. Lake responds to her more somber ambitions with heavier and slower arrangements. Trouble is, synthetic gravity has little weight, and "Tricky Bizzniss" bogs down as the duo experiments with sonic/thematic diversity.

Reiss does at least make the point she's more than a trained animal performing at the command of the studio gurus. But the more she and Lake focus on their forte - electronic-based dance music - the more likely they are to succeed.

"Tricky Bizzniss" is released by EsNtion Records.

Rating: 3-1/2 (out of possible five).