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Tricky - Ununiform (Album Review)

Thursday, 28 September 2017 Written by Ben Gallivan

It’s a little surprising to learn that ‘Ununiform’ is Tricky’s 13th studio album. Hugely prolific in the years following the release of 1995’s ‘Maxinquaye’ - a top five album in the UK - things had begun to tail off by the time 2001’s ‘Blowback’ came around.

That was a shame, really, as ‘Blowback’ was a more accessible record targeted at people’s wallets as well as their ears. Retrospectively it’s viewed as one of his better efforts, but at the time it backfired.

Now based in Berlin and creeping up on his 50th birthday, Tricky has gone back to basics with ‘Ununiform’, which has plenty in common with the shaky but attention-grabbing production values of Roots Manuva’s debut, ‘Brand New Second Hand’.

That said, one of the immediate things you notice on first listen is the similarities between The Only Way and Hell Is Around the Corner from ‘Maxinquaye’.

It brings in strings and acoustic guitar to replace that Isaac Hayes sample, which seemed to be used by budding trip-hoppers throughout the mid-’90s.

Despite the number of collaborations on ‘Ununiform’, Tricky largely flies solo here and is used to great effect. The weed-filled exhalations of Hell… have been replaced by a needy, apologetic drawl.

So, what of those collaborations? Long-time associate Martina Topley-Bird - so prevalent on Tricky’s earlier work - is present, but only as part of lead single and album closer When We Die. It’s only four minutes of the piece but it’s enough to make you fall in love with that effortless delivery all over again.

The short but sweet rumble of Bang Boogie, featuring Russian rap artist Smoky Mo, is a welcome relief after the cop-out of Doll (with Avalon Lurks), which is a needless reworking of Hole’s Doll Parts – it simply doesn’t belong here.

It’s the stripped-down beats and simple melodies that make ‘Ununiform’ a winner, though. Twenty years ago, nobody was making music like Tricky, so now he’s making music that sounds like everyone else. Importantly, he also sets about improving on it.

Same As It Ever Was is disjointed, lyrically unimpressive and under-produced and yet it’s one of the freshest things you might hear all year. The manipulation of Francesca Belmonte’s superb vocals on New Stole, meanwhile, is as endearing as it is clumsy and the guitar melody on Wait For Signal will stay with you.

If ‘Ununiform’ is the opening passage to a new stage in Tricky’s career, then chapter two will be welcomed with open arms.

Tricky Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed December 13 2017 - LONDON Islington Assembly Hall

Click here to compare & buy Tricky Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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