As far as UK music pioneers go, Tricky’s name should be in any list of ‘most influential’. The Bristol-born trip-hop legend has released some of the most innovative music of the 90s. 25 years since the release of his classic debut album Maxinquaye, the talented artist has experimented with different sounds and textures, some of which I think are ground-breaking and underrated, 2001’s Blowback and 2010’s Mixed Race being examples of his genius to me. His music has always dealt with angst and deep personal self-reflection, often characterised as ‘moody’, ‘dark’ and ‘ominous. His new album Fall to Pieces however, tells a different kind of story. The album carries heavy, heavy feelings of grief and devastating loss after the tragic loss of his daughter Mazy Mina Topley-Bird last year. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain he feels, still to this day, though Fall to Pieces does give us an insight into his raw, emotive feelings on an indescribable loss. With the help of Polish singer Marta Zlakowska and Danish singer Oh Land, he is able to capture the fragility of the human spirit with heart and soul.
Marta’s voice especially is a perfect complementary piece to Tricky’s heart-wrenching music. The heavy synths and basslines of “Thinking Of” sound cold and complement her poignant and delicate voice. The short but sweet “Close Now” is a raw, emotive track with harsh bass notes that sound overpowering, with both Tricky and Marta singing “Don’t let it get you down” with a painful tone. The incredibly beautiful guitar leads on “Running Off” are stellar and make it one of my favourite moments on the album. It delves into this bass-heavy rhythm, with Marta singing “Running off when we talk” which may allude to Tricky and Mazy’s relationship. What strikes me is how present Marta and Oh Land are on the album, and I assume that their presence is to echo the deep feelings of grief Tricky is going through. I can only imagine how difficult it is to translate your feelings openly, especially when it’s about such a personal matter. “Hate This Pain” is one of the most gut-wrenching moments on the album. Tricky himself talks through the pain of his loss, stating “What a fucking game/ I hate this fucking pain”. He also states “Was crying, endless coast / Baby girl, she knew me most.” The eerie and unsettling piano piece accompanying Tricky’s emotive and heavy, heavy words make this such an uncomfortable listen, and the strings that come through add to the emotion. The industrial sounding “Chills Me to the Bone” is another potent moment on the album. It’s another desolate moment, aided by the heavy instrumentation throughout. “Fall Please” is a beautiful moment on the album, with a dynamic beat and groove that is just so moving and incredibly lush in sound. It offers a momentary few minutes of hope and light, as Tricky is trying his best to seek life from the darkness. “Like a Stone” and “Throws Me Around” are two more deeply desolate tracks that just brings an emotive and heartbreaking tone to the track. The guitar-led “Vietnam” ends the album out with such a somber tone. “And I’m that toy / I make bombs and you know / Anyone, Vietnam / I’m black boy and you hear my song” is what both Tricky and Marta express, and the deep darkness of his despair is what makes this such a difficult listen. His almost self-destructive lyrics here are desperate, as she shines light on his identity on a black boy, a black man who has suffered with the loss of someone so dear to him.
Honestly, I don’t even know what else to write. My heart goes out to Tricky and his family. Losing someone, let alone a child is probably one of the worst feelings in the world. To Tricky’s credit, this album reflects his loss and feelings with an album that is utterly heart-wrenching and incredibly moving. There is a delicate beauty within darkness, and he translates those deep feelings throughout. Love to Tricky again, and go support this album.