Though probably best know to Yanks as a NICK CAVE associate (especially in the Bad Seeds’ early days), Australia-to-Europe transplant HUGO RACE has issued a steady stream of his own records for two decades, both on his own (often joined by his backing band TRUE SPIRIT) and with his former group the WRECKERY. 53rd State is Race’s 16th solo album, and it’s a damned good one. Race lets his smoky, MARK LANEGAN-like baritone slide across brooding tracks that draw elements from the blues, country & western, jazz balladry, minimalist soundtrack music and electronic weirdness like a sidewinder skimming the desert sand. There’s a menace underwriting the moody romanticism, making tunes like the atmospheric “Coming Clean,” the stomping “Girl Called Sunset” and even the desire-soaked “Sorcery” enigmatic and unsettling, yet almost irresistibly attractive and appealing, like a knife wrapped in silk. It’s no perfectly appropriate that the band and guest vocalist VIOLETTA DELCONTE RACE cover the dark LEE HAZLEWOOD mini-masterpiece “Sand.” “I love to see you smile,” Race asserts in the loping “When Midnight Comes,” but it sounds as much like a threat as a promise. By the time of the floating “Sodium Rum” and the clanging “Mystery World,” the music becomes downright ghostly. The closing “I Wonder” features a skeletal guitar/trumpet track over which LARRY WALSH mutters like a late night call-in radio show host with dead phone lines. It’s the perfect dissolute ending to an emotional rollercoaster of a record. Brilliant work, this.