The late, great DJ John Peel said of The Fall that they were always different but always the same. Bristol beat baron Tricky could fall into a similar zone. The vocal stamps and sonic twists of Mark E Smith and Tricky have limited but instantly identifiable tones. Although both guys can hand on the front duties to others with the latter always welcoming a number of guests to the studio. Nonetheless, both acts are immensely influential and innovative. Trip-hop guru Tricky continues his guile on Ununiform and as well as presenting a number of sweet sounding divas including his old sidekick Martina Topley-Bird there are several surprises. The core of the new record was made in his new home of Berlin but four tracks were laid down in a deep, dark December in Tricky’s favourite city of Moscow. Russian performers and producers such as Scriptonite, Vasily Vakulenko, Smoky Jo and Gazgolder play roles in the proceedings. 2017 offers album number 13 for Tricky and these 13 tunes are introduced as ‘a journey into happiness and contentment’ – but, do not expect a Black Lace tribute as this is still more of a black space. This is Tricky and it is difficult not to play on the title of one of his earlier works – and, describe his work as a post-millennium tension.
Even on his path to pleasure the theme of death crops up and the likes of Dark Days plus When We Die indicate that this is not or never will be Agadoo territory. However, Tricky has always been a market leader and it appears that risk-taking is more important than commercial gold.
Tricky looks back to move forward e.g. Same as it ever Was, New Stole also mentions Aftermath and The Only Way is a sibling to Hell is round the Corner. In an ideal world this toil should be all over the airwaves but the inconsequential bubblegum of X-Factor, Y-bother pap rules.
Tricky mixes his haunting, throaty, narrative with some regal female performances – and, these unlikely partnerships dovetail as contrasting shades that display dark and light tones. This approach is not destined for a pigeonhole but any poles of rough and smooth blended with sour and sweet offer a balance that offers so much more to so many songs.
The music meanwhile enters the zones of the unconventional and uncompromising while still retaining memorable hooks and infectious rhythms. Keith Levene of PIL was said to de-learn the guitar to create his sound and in a similar manner Tricky upsets the applecart to offer fresh fruit.
Trip-hop is the associated genre of Tricky but he can head off into the arenas of EDM while also traversing the alternative avenues of dub/folk/rock/world music et al. The vibe can feel a tad post-punk in the application with the ethos of this movement at the core of the thought process if not always prominent in the sound.
Ununiform is another departure which retains the core fans but has appeal to increase the audience. The scope achieved with the guests enlisted ensure that the aesthetics are not stuck in one place. Nonetheless, those tracks that turn back to head forward can be to the fore. From a Jah Wobble layered start the main man can utilise his Brand new it’s Retro stance but coat the merchandise with hundreds and thousands of delicacies and demons to make it a journey that is not for the faint-hearted but for the adventurous-soul.
The debut long player Maxinquaye is still out there on its own in terms of the epic but this effort is a lucky rather than unlucky 13. Do not flinch – stick with the project and reap the rewards of the magical Tricky.