"Blue Cotton Skin"

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Such trip-hop originators as Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead reinforced their wispy recordings with substantial musical personalities.

Subsequently, however, the genre has been swamped with bland sopranos, the sort of skilled but unsurprising balladeers who would have requisitioned an acoustic guitar and a half-dozen Dylan songs back when Joan Baez and Judy Collins ruled. In fact, California singer-songwriter Petracovich (aka Jessica Peters) plays a little acoustic guitar on her debut, "Blue Cotton Skin." But it's her voice and keyboards and co-producer Tad Wagner's drones and drum machine that provide the dominant -- and trippy -- timbres.

Petracovich clearly wants to be elusive. All the photos on "Blue Cotton Skin" are views of a laundromat, and such hushed instrumental pieces as "Coyote and the Moon" are as evanescent as a soap bubble. Some of the songs with vocals are meatier: "Bird's in Flight" undertakes a stately march to a pretty vocal chorale, and "Water House" arrays the small, chiming tones of a kalimba against what sounds like synthesized kettle drums. Such ingenious arrangements point the way to a second Petracovich album that will be more than merely atmospheric.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Tuesday at DC9 with Plink. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Petracovich, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8106. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)