Adrian Thaws, AKA Tricky, has always been ahead of the curve. When he released his instant classic debut album ‘Maxinquaye’ it made, pretty much, everything else seem redundant and basic. Follow-up ‘Pre-Millennium Tension’ was equal to its hype, and his ‘Nearly God’ project was a work of genius that we’re only just starting to truly understand. In short, he’s always pushed himself to find new collaborators and sounds, sometimes at the risk of commercial success and the wants of his fan base.
This ear for new and ground-breaking music lead to the formation of his False Idols label in 2013. Now Tricky has curated ‘Test of Time’, a compilation beginning with a selection of mostly unsigned artists from around the world and ending with remixes, productions and performances from the man himself. It opens with Dio Russo saying, “Are you ready?” before scratchy acoustic guitar kicks in. This isn’t just studio banter left in because it sounds good, it says to the listener: “Are you ready for this? This isn’t going to be a passive, easy listen. So, are you ready?” The resulting track feels like it could have been a ‘Nearly God’ outtake, with its intimate tone and haunting delivery.
The stand-outs here are Tricky’s remix of Idles’ immense ‘Colossus’, Suzy Sleepzzz’s ‘Lollopa’ and Breanna Barbara’s ‘Ramblin’ Woman’. Breanna Barbara re-imagines Hank Williams’ classic from a female perspective - subverting the meaning of the song – and musically it’s about as raw and stripped back as you can imagine, Barbara’s powerful vocals accompanied only by acoustic bass and mournful string section. It stops the listener in their tracks, shining new light on an old, familiar song, while showcasing Sleepzzz’s ethereal electronics and tight beats.
The simplicity of it is striking, but there is a hidden complexity that only really reveals itself after repeat listens - showing how Tricky is still drawn to juxtaposed sounds and textures.
The remix of Idles is as glorious as it is terrifying - Joe Talbot’s visceral vocals and Jon Beavis’ blistering drums are backed by wonky electronics and a delicately rising string section. The track cuts short before the rapid coda erupts from the speakers, which either feels like a missed opportunity (we’ll never know how Tricky would’ve reimagined that frenetic punk sound) or a dramatic punch through the building pace.
At times this project feels like a fleshed out, and fully formed, version of the ‘Grassroots’ EP Tricky released in 1996 - on which he worked with New York hip-hop artists - whereas now he’s widened out his net and musical palette. In true Tricky style, ‘Test of Time’ doesn’t feel like the usual comp a label puts out: all the tracks here are compelling and intriguing - it’s impossible not to be drawn down each song’s rabbit-hole to see where it goes. Ultimately, what the project proves is that Tricky has lost none of that creative spark that made him such a captivating and mesmerising artist in the first place.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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