Legendary British producer Tricky has built a music career that is as extensive as it is enviable. The Massive Attack collaborator takes pride in a discography that is essential in the evolution of trip-hop; his innovative and creative approach both visually and sonically shaped a style of music that continues to expand. His 13th album, ununiform, was conveyed in Moscow and completed in Berlin, where Tricky has been living for the last few years. Released in September, it’s his most confrontational and comprehensive project to date.
Tricky approaches the concepts of contentment and peace with weariness as he reflects on his family, death, and inevitably, his legacy. The lead single from ununiform, “When We Die,” embodies self reflection, grace and unrelenting morbidity; the usually frenetic and unpredictable Tricky succumbs to vulnerability. This sentiment crosses over to his live performance — but still incorporates the brazen and wholly unapologetic Tricky fans have come to know and love.
Last Wednesday (May 2) at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club, the esteemed musician emerged on the stage and quickly turned his back to the audience. As he put his head down and eagerly tugged at his shirt (a gesture he would repeat throughout the evening), Tricky used a strategically paced introduction to indulge onlookers — and to an extent, himself — in suspense. Every move he made was calculating and served as an indicator of intensity for each song. “You Don’t Wanna” contained sensual elements while the throbbing nature of “I’m Not Going” ultimately transformed into audible eroticism — and Tricky shamelessly delighted in both.
“Armor” and “Here My Dear” were more upbeat but incandescently brooding tracks; “Nothing’s Changed” and “My Palestine Girl” were cerebral in their delivery. The aforementioned “When We Die” relished in its tender balladry. Tricky’s last song of the evening was “Vent” from his 1996 sophomore album Pre-Millennium Tension. That record was his attempt to break away from being labeled exclusively as a trip-hop artist, which is something that he had previously stated in interviews. Twenty-two years later, it’s clear that Tricky is still one of the genre’s most influential and necessary figures.