With ununiform, Tricky, the UK’s premier genre-bending trip-hopper, extends his reign as such well into his third decade of making music. Originally a part of Massive Attack‘s posse in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Tricky had huge success with his debut album Maxinquaye in ’95 and hasn’t looked back since; besides a fallow period in the mid-2000s, he’s released consistently good albums every few years.
On most of them, Tricky employs a variety of guest vocalists to add variety to his own creepy rasp—who can forget the introduction of Martina Topley-Bird on Maxinquaye‘s opener “Overcome” and “Black Steel” (itself a Public Enemy cover)—and ununiform is ripe with vocal additions, including Topley-Bird, back in Tricky’s world after a decade-plus absence. Additional guests plumb a world that is dear to the rapper—that of Russian hip-hop—with stars of that arena including Scriptonite, Vasily Vakulenko (Basta), and Smokey Mo contributing on several tracks that were also partially recorded in Russia.
ununiform is a gumbo of delicious sounds and styles and moves along at a brisk clip; few of the album’s thirteen tracks approach the four-minute mark. The spookiness and down-tempo moodiness that is a Tricky signature is well represented, but there are plenty of light moments too, including the ballad “The Only Way” and the piano-based “Blood of My Blood.” Hole’s “Doll Parts” is reimagined here as “Doll” and features a new female vocal discovery in Avalon Lurks. Elsewhere, we get upbeat and dancey on “Armor,” lots of distorted guitars on “New Stole” and “Dark Days,” and Smokey Mo’s Russian rapping on “Bang Boogie.” The reliance on outside voices obscures the album’s guiding personality, making it an occasionally muddling listen, but it’s nevertheless a welcome new album from the quixotic artist.