You haven't heard anything. The radio people are setting up the mics that will carry the sound of Tricky, live, to the citizens of Tel Aviv. And beyond, I hope. I’d like to think that out in the kibbutzim, the front lines, the listening posts, they’re going to hear what happens next.
  The old wisdom has it that there are only two kinds of music: good and bad. Wrong. There’s also weird. Music you don't understand, can't make sense of, can't begin to figure out ifyou 'Iike" it or not.
   It's easy, for instance, to like "Ponderosa" and "Overcome", those pocket apocalypses so widely imitated that they already have the over-familiar classic status of Sixties R&B standards. Tricky still plays them, although the band he’s playing them with reveals how they should have sounded onstage all along. He used to perform in near-total darkness, grinding his way through "Maxinquaye" like a Victorian wife performing a painful marital duty. Now he performs in near-total darkness, and the rest of the world flickers and vanishes.
  Even if you saw the British tour, you saw nothing like this. When "Vent" broke out of its suffocating headlock to sprawl across 20 minutes of lost time, that seemed extreme. Tonight, that's nothing. The songs aren’t even there any more. You know the way Underworld use familiar tracks as a launch pad for the unheard? This goes way beyond. It isn't just post-rock or post-trip hop or post-techno — it's post everything. This, people, is the dernier cri. It makes Tortoise look like The Ramones.
   The noise tumbles out and on, out of orbit, out of sight, out of comprehension. Those sluggish, elliptical, ricocheting beats that Tricky loves to force on you hitting you again and
again until suddenly, you get it — you lock in, you realise that your mind was simply lagging behind. Sometimes, a familiar sample or pattern will hustle by, like a friend glimpsed in a strange and frightening city.
But the truth is, they're not coming back, and you're on your own.
  Because Tricky is thought of as a producer, a creature of the studio who hides himself behind his own creations and lets Martina be his mouthpiece, you forget he’s first and foremost a rapper. Tonight, he remembers. He spiels and freeforms, his eerie, rasping whisper working around a theme he was developing on an earlier radio show. His record company is part of a conglomerate that also manufactures arms, 
so: "I don ’t sell records, I sell guns/Guns for the funds/Kill a Jew, kill an Asian/Kill your radio station." And that’s just the bit that makes a certain kind of sense. Otherwise, his words are as strung-out and as strange as the music, pure sound, streaming like lava, and meaning is an accident.
  In a way, it's an endurance test. Can your attention withstand an hour-long improvisation? There's nothing to hold you, either you ride it or you jump. The very early Pink Floyd
happenings at The Roundhouse, when Syd
Barrett would travel all night on a single chord, must have felt like this. A sense that you were hearing something entirely new and wonderful,
a suspicion you were being fooled away from boredom by your own eagerness.
  Two hours in, I wonder if the
live broadcast is still going out. The fundamentalist wackos out there must think it's
some kind of sign. Then it all shudders to a halt and the jaunty intro loop of the preposterous catchy "Tricky Kid" kicks in. 
From the far side of nowhere to "Top Of The
Pops" in 11 seconds. That must be a record. It reaches an end, of sorts, if not a conclusion, after three hours and 20 minutes, which is also a record, according to John on the sound desk. But the ending's been going on for the best part of an hour, with a hideous, fascinating jam for which the band swap instruments and Tricky hides behind a riser perpetrating unspeakable and inept atrocities upon a guitar.
  Into the abyss. Into the sky.


photo: Stephen Sweet

from: Melody Maker, 18. January 1997

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