Tricky returns with his 13th album, ununiform, out in September on his own label False Idols via !K7 Music. It’s a delicate, storming, intricate album that sees Tricky take perhaps his most radical step yet – a journey into happiness and contentment. It’s a record that shows the legendary British producer confront his legacy, history, family – even death itself. And in all of this, he finds the strangest, least familiar thing – peace.
This is the first album-proper made since Tricky moved to Berlin, three years ago. While many people move to the clubbing capital of Europe to party, this was a clean break, in every sense of the word. “I like it here because I don’t know anybody. I eat good food, I go for walks, I’ve got a bike. I’m trying to look after myself. I don’t drink here. Some people call it boring, but I wake at 9am and I’m asleep by 11 o’clock at night. I’m looking after myself.”
There’s one final emotional return that took place over the last three years – Tricky’s reconnection with his family’s history in Bristol’s soundsystem culture, and the discovery that his granddad was legendary (and the stupendously named) reggae DJ Tarzan The High Priest. Back in 1965, when the first wave of Afro-Caribbean immigrants were making their home in the port city of Bristol, Tarzan set up one of the city’s first soundsystems – a glorious if under-reported history that was uncovered through Bristol Soundsystem Culture, a landmark exhibition in Tricky’s hometown. “My granddad made a record and in those days it was a big thing. He was a well-known artist before I was born, and changed English music in ways we don’t even know.” Tricky’s tough family life has long been the subject of psychological speculation on the part of critics and fans – his mother killed herself when Tricky was four, and he was raised in a series of foster homes. But this revelation of a lost musical great in the family has transformed Tricky’s life. “I reconnected with my father’s side of the family during the recording of this album, and in a way, the fact that I’m coming from good lineage made me feel good coming into this album. I’m from a line of kings. That feels good.”
At one point, he asks a rhetorical question: “People say this album sounds like ‘Tricky’ … But what does that actually sound like?”. Ununiform, then, is a glorious, beautiful, intensely personal attempt to answer that question.