Since his defining Maxinquaye LP, Tricky‘s artistic paths haven’t been the clearest. No doubt he is sick of the references to the aforementioned watermark, but since, to put it bluntly, Tricky‘s work has been patchy.
However, time and time again, Tricky‘s tireless efforts to reach into the abyss and capture something new always sees his listeners going back.
Some artists just garner that aura and Tricky is one of them. Someone that always piques interest due to his ambitions. For curious ears, his ethos is like gold dust and very much a fading art form in itself, despite the end results being sometimes mixed.
Not since Knowle West Boy has Tricky captured the imagination the way he has with his 14th studio album, Fall to Pieces.
Recorded after the loss of Tricky‘s 19-year-old daughter, Mazy, the premise to this album is harrowing to say the very least.
Having also lost someone as close to me over the past two-and-half years, it’s quite easy to be drawn to these subjects whereby your perceptions to the music itself become blurred. Commonality can sometimes impinge on the decision making process. “Am I thinking with my head or my heart?”
Whether that’s the case or not in this instance, the most striking thing with Fall to Pieces is just how Tricky has overcome this unimaginable loss to not only record the album so quickly, but to present such quality in what could be argued is his most defining moment as a recording artist.
The greatest ruse on Fall to Pieces is the inclusion of Polish singer, Marta Złakowska, whom Tricky met at a bar in Poland and drafted in last minute on the opening night of his European tour. Such instances tie in with the Tricky story. The spirits working mysteriously to guide him to these moments.
Złakowska‘s performance breathes the necessary vitality into these songs. Her shy, weightless voice drips with soul, coiling around Tricky‘s nicotine-laden drawls that hang in the air like stale bar smoke.
“Is it real?/And it hurts to feel” whispers Złakowska during the opening slow-motion atmospheric opener, Thinking Of. It sets the tone for what’s to come.
Close Now is cloaked in dystopian drones and Zlakowska‘s skinny melodies that crossover with Tricky as he spits “Don’t let it get you down/Don’t let it get you down” – his first words on the album.
On Running Off, Złakowska shows her intangible vocal range. Part purr, part croon, her voice drifts alongside Eastern European rhythms that warp into an ambient techno beat we’re used to hearing from Andy Stott.
I’m in the Doorway is infused with dub and piano minimalism with dark atmospherics bubbling underneath. It’s the kind of number that gets stronger with each listen and if anything, has an aura of Massive Attack Blue Lines-era about it.
Hate This Pain is Tricky‘s most literal statement on Fall to Pieces. A sordid bluesy piano and downcast strings with brass that simmer under Tricky‘s poetic burr. “What a fuckin’ game/I hate this fuckin’ pain/Was cryin’, endless coast/Baby girl, she knew me most.”
It’s enough to want to reach through your speakers and give him a gigantic hug.
Chills Me to the Bone follows – a spiky electro number doused in trip-hop masked with subtle strings that add the necessary emotional depth.
Then there’s Fall Please. With a vivacious bass groove, Tricky wasn’t wrong when he said that it’s the closest thing he’s made to a pop song.
Aesthetically, while a bastard son of sorts, oddly enough Fall Please is a welcoming inclusion to the album, not least because it’s just a fucking good tune.
Like Fall Please, Take Me Shopping, Like a Stone and Throws Me Around all possess that hazy crossover with synths that chill you to the core. Tricky‘s vocals splinter off Zlakowska‘s with a transparent vigour.
With Fall to Pieces, Tricky‘s less is more approach—coupled with the addition of Złakowska to lead the charge—have given these songs the tenderness they richly deserve.
It’s an orchestration of top quality and because of this, Fall to Pieces feels like it’s going to stay around for a while.
On closing track, Vietnam, Tricky and Zlakowska take part in a near-spoken-word duet over two bummed guitar notes. There’s no defiant message to look forward to the future. And nor should there be. Tricky‘s still mourning his loss. These emotions may very well bleed into his next record and that’s okay.
Tricky won’t feel it now, but it’s just time. Time will never fully heal these wounds, but it may make things a little more manageable. The cathartic creation of Fall to Pieces is all part of the process.
Fall to Pieces is out now via False Idols.