Tricky Presents Skilled Mechanics, the eleventh album from trip hop veteran Tricky, is one that sees him step away from the role of chief architect and instead embark on a more collaborative way of working. Appearing alongside past collaborator DJ Milo of famed Bristol collective The Wild Bunch and regular touring drummer Luke Harris, it’s a move resulting in an album that feels creatively fresh.
Guest vocalists are a common theme in Tricky's back catalogue, and though the aforementioned trio form the firm backbone of this album with Tricky himself supplying a good sized helping of the vocals, it also quickly becomes clear that this is a tradition that hasn’t been veered away from. Opener "I’m Not Going" plays true to Tricky's fascination with unorthodox voices from the off, whereupon Danish singer Oh Land helps usher in the album with smoky vocals over a tick-tocking rhythm and backward string samples.
Dance beats and synth bass form the foundations of "Hero", helping to up the tempo, but it’s on recent single "Beijing To Berlin" - featuring Chinese singer Ivy 艾菲 - that Skilled Mechanics reaches its high point. It sees generous helpings of intelligent pop nous added to bleary dancehall rhythms confronting short, sharp bursts of effects ridden guitars.
Where Tricky usually takes a back seat, allowing others to take centre stage when it comes to the supply of singing, this album is one that sees him take a more prominent step forward as a vocalist. It’s on the autobiographical "Boy" - whose lyrics are a true life document of his youth - that his sprechgesang vocals sit most poignantly, delicately layered over a atmospherically dark bed of synths and scattered beats.
Twenty one years since his Mercury Prize nominated debut solo album Maxinquaye emerged, Tricky may have finally delivered one that can stand proudly equal alongside it.