The reclusive alchemist returns...

“I think it… it’s gonna work now”, the lead vocalist Marta Złakowska remarks three seconds into Tricky’s latest album ‘Fall to Pieces’. The comment may be off the cuff, but as far as the man’s creative process is concerned, it is bang on. “My music is weird because I don’t know what I’m doing,” Tricky writes on his autobiography ‘Hell Is Round The Corner’. ‘Fall to Pieces’ is a reiteration of this very quality that sets Tricky apart from the rest, for better or worse – intuition.

As an autodidact open about the fact he can’t sing, play an instrument, or dance, his ability to make something out of nothing – the core tenet of hip-hop culture – seems deeply ingrained in him. In marked contrast to a rich oeuvre combining stylistic fluidity with countless collaborations, it is often the most ascetic moments of introspection such as ‘When We Die’, ‘Past Mistake’, ‘Analyze Me’, ‘Makes Me Wanna Die’, and ‘Poems’ that are engraved on our memory, the stripped down productions displaying his sixth sense for the rhythm and emotional tone.

And yet acting on intuition comes with its unique set of challenges. In the absence of conscious thoughts and hard evidence, we get trapped in repetitive patterns of behaviour. Keeping his own vocal contributions and track lengths to a bare minimum seem counterintuitive if not unusual on an autobiographical album heavily reliant on the atmosphere thick with grief. Timing issues are most obvious in poignant opener ‘Thinking Of’, battle cry ‘Close Now’, volatile ‘Chills Me To The Bone’, and evocative ‘Running Off’ featuring Oh Land, which after first eight bars of slick Croatian tamburica sample loses its way. All of them would have needed at least another couple of minutes and verses to reach their full potential.

It comes as no surprise that whenever a sufficient amount of time has been set aside, musical ideas gel straight away - even when we go down the well-trodden route of ‘Hate This Pain’, a melodramatic duet with Złakowska accompanied by Marie Claire Schlameus’s sluggish cello and Isaac Hayes-esque piano loop. Where the precious extra minutes work like a charm is in ‘Take Me Shopping’, ‘Like a Stone’ and ‘Throws Me Around’ where Złakowska’s feathery voice makes the hair stand on end (I always fall in river / And shake and shiver / Return to mother / It always fails).

No form of art is exact science, least of all music. Nothing sums up this quite like Tricky’s own anecdote about the birth of ‘Strugglin’ back in 1995. “Musically, you can't do that,” his co-producer Mark Saunders told him. But Tricky would have none of it: “Listen, if I can hear it in my head, it can be done!”

Not every idea is worth fighting for. But your inner voice is always worth a listen.


Words: Eero Holi

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