Anyone reading Tricky’s 2019 autobiography ‘Hell is Round the Corner’ will know to expect the unexpected, as well as his ability to emerge from personal or societal blows. His latest alter ego Lonely Guest takes some previous patterns to their logical conclusion.
The mix of patented styles (dark organic, poppy electronica, trip rock) is there, and the collaborator approach is even more to the fore, with ‘Lonely Guest’ the producer for a parade of talent across a spectrum from Danish popster Oh Land to Manchester collective leader Murkage Dave.
He then ups the anti by banging out a 10 track album coming in at 25 mins.
Recorded during lockdown, with his touring plans wiped out, Lonely Guest lurks behind the desk with a stopwatch set to 2.5 mins. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but he somehow pulls it off.
While each contributor fully owns their track, there’s a sparse atmosphere that threads everything together. And (high risk strategy in a streaming world) the track sequencing is genius.
Marta is back to lead the eponymous opener, a mellow but somewhat menacing mission statement for what is to follow. Breanna Barber closes the collection with the beautiful Big Bang Blues, and is rewarded with a mighty three minutes before the guillotine falls.
In between there’s a quality control that hasn’t always been there (yes, I’m looking at you Skilled Mechanics).
The twin peaks are the most vocally entwined. Pre War Tension is led by an intro verse in typical direct style from Idles’ Joe Talbot. Marta contributes the ripped off pop chorus then Tricky picks up the rest of the story. It’s a terrifying and brilliant war tale for 2021.
Atmosphere is an extraordinary duet between Lee Scratch Perry and Marta, with Tricky smoking in the background. It’s heartbreakingly good, all the more so in the circumstances. As Maximo Park’s Paul Smith puts it on Christmas Trees ‘I hope I’m still alive next year’.
While this collection’s length isn’t going to test the limits of the vinyl pressing industry, it’s a bold and successful attempt to reinvent the concept of an album, with a minimalism of length and complexity that complements last year’s Fall to Pieces. Tricky never went away, but he is definitely back.
Review by Alan Renwick