Tricky Credit: Erik Weiss

Tricky is justifiably feeling reflective these days. In his 2019 autobiography, Hell Is Round the Corner, he wrote about the severe adversity he faced from an early age; his mother committed suicide when he was four years old, and his troubled adolescence in Bristol, England, culminated in a short prison stint when he was 17. It might’ve been enough to shut down another person’s dreams, but Tricky, born Adrian Thaws, found his path when he turned to music as a means to cope. In the mid-80s, he was asked to join pioneering sound-system group the Wild Bunch, which dominated his hometown’s underground music scene, and by 1988 he’d cofounded Massive Attack as a spin-off group. Building on the Wild Bunch’s electronic sound and working with various guest singers, Massive Attack resonated with mainstream fans and critics and catapulted them to international success. But Tricky felt creatively stifled in the group, and in 1995 he parted ways to release his solo debut, Maxinquaye (named for his mother, Maxine Quay), which made him a star in his own right. Most of the tracks on Maxinquaye feature singer Martina Topley-Bird, who gave birth to her daughter with Tricky, Mazy, a month after the album was released. Tricky stayed pretty busy for the next couple decades, managing his recording and touring schedule while producing and collaborating with other artists. And in the early 2010s, he reunited with Massive Attack, eventually appearing on the group’s 2016 EP, Ritual Spirit. Then in May 2019, just as Tricky was beginning work on his 14th solo LP, the new Fall to Pieces, Mazy committed suicide. Tricky’s lyrics have often skewed toward dark subjects, but on tracks such as “Hate This Pain,” the sense of loss is unbearably raw. Over a bluesy piano line, he rasps out his sorrow, a feeling echoed later in the song by singer Marta Złakowska, who appears on nine of the record’s 11 tracks. An eerie, haunting mood pervades the album, but Złakowska’s voice provides a gently calming foil to Tricky’s anxious, doom-summoning beats, especially on the moody “Chills Me to the Bone” and opening track “Thinking Of.” On the latter she sings, “Is it real / And it hurts to feel / Goodbye my love,” and I can’t imagine Tricky matching her clarity and solicitousness while in the throes of grief. While Fall to Pieces provides only a brief glimpse into Tricky’s despair, it suggests that even in the darkness he can see glimpses of light. “I’m in the Doorway,” which features the childlike voice of Danish singer Oh Land, verges on upbeat dance-pop, and Oh Land’s repetition of the one-line chorus—“Into something, sort of”—sounds like Tricky’s attempt to crawl back to the world of the living.   v