After a string of misfires, the UK musician’s 14th album translates unimaginable loss into some of his most darkly moving music in years.
Tricky has always worn his bruised heart on his sleeve. His brilliantly desolate debut album, Maxinquaye, was inspired by his mother, who died when he was four years old, and a song like “Strugglin’” laid bare in excruciating detail his experiences of pain, darkness, and toil. Fall to Pieces, which contains some of the most darkly moving music that Tricky has produced since that debut album, was produced in the shadow of tragedy. Tricky’s daughter Mazy died in 2019 as he was beginning work on a new record. Here, on his 14th studio album, he translates that unimaginable loss into moments of nauseatingly raw emotion.
“Hate This Pain,” one of the first songs Tricky worked on after his daughter’s death, channels the sickening depth of his loss into music of visceral simplicity. Tricky’s production, particularly in his early years, was enveloped in a dank, psychedelic murk that seemed to ooze out of the grooves. “Hate This Pain,” however, is unusually and agonizingly clean, its surfaces exposed like a fresh wound, a pristine MTV Unplugged in New York to Maxinquaye’s Nevermind.
The song centers on a blues piano trill and tiny dabs of cello, trumpet, and slide guitar, over which Tricky and new vocal partner Marta Złakowska trade lyrics of deepest despair. It’s his best song in decades but almost exhaustingly moving, with unvarnished lines like “What a fucking game/I hate this fucking pain” delivered with agonising intensity. “Vietnam,” in which Tricky and Złakowska share a whispered duet over a detuned guitar riff, and “Take Me Shopping” have a similarly barren simplicity, reminiscent of the bleakly beautiful English West Country blues that PJ Harvey pulled from the stone on Dry.