Album Review: Tricky – Fall To Pieces

Fall To Pieces 1

For whatever reason we’re in a new era, where the people we used to once recognise as untouchable (after all, we did call them stars) are three steps less removed, somehow in our hands. Not everybody treats fame like this, but Tricky has experienced anguish like few people have had to deal with, and he continues to face it down on his own terms.

It’s been twenty-five years since Maxinquaye redrew British music’s lay lines, driving a wedge into the dominance of American artists in hip-hop and beyond which would eventually become a fissure. Since then, he’s led a life he could barely have imagined when growing up on Bristol’s Knowle West estate, a story vividly chronicled in his 2019 autobiography Hell Is Around The Corner.

The book ends in a moment of acute devastation with the death of his twenty-four-year-old daughter Mazy; Fall To Pieces is his first album since the tragedy, and one on which he addresses grief but also the racism his good career fortune has both highlighted and shielded him from.

Centre stage is new singing partner Marta Złakowska, who was discovered after a last minute turn filling in on a recent tour. The spotlight is as much for her as it is the typically smart and accomplished production skills of the man releasing his fourteenth album. It’s an exercise in contrasts with few moods allowed to stick amongst these short songs, most of which come in at under three minutes long, giving the impression more of a mixtape than maybe was intended.

On the one side, opener Thinking Of is framed with some bleary synths and almost whispered phrases, echoing a more circumspect Goldfrapp, but it’s Hate This Pain that’s one of the hardest listens imaginable, a sliding piano loop helping a father spit out the hurt of losing his child like a tumour, the rawness scoured with, ‘Was crying on the coast/Baby girl she knew me most’.

There are passages equally though which sound almost carefree: the rippling house of Fall Please, written a decade ago, has been salvaged from the ‘too pop’ folder, while all hundred-and-four seconds of Running Off are a slightly disorientating mashup of bass and eastern European tinged folk.

The blend is at its most consuming though when these elements of gloom and harmony are in balance. On Like A Stone, both sorcerer and apprentice trade vocals over desultory beats; this is comedown music for people who barely know the edge between sleep and wakefulness.

For Tricky, dealing with a soul lost left no choice but to carry on as a performer, as a man and as a father. Fall To Pieces isn’t though looking over a shoulder at a therapist’s notes any more than it is a song-set made for daytime radio.

Sometimes a door only half opened is more than enough.


Andy Peterson

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