Remember Massive Attack's languid, smoky, shuffling, bluesy 'Unfinished Symthy'? Former MA maverick TRICKY has done it again, with the languid, smoky, etc, etc 'Ponderosa'. DAVID STUBBS celebrates Tricky the man and Tricky the band. Trickshot: LILI WILDE
|and if you smoked enough
spliff you could I isten to it and it'd sound great. But when I see all
these ambient f***ing videos it bores me, it doesn't create a f***ing reaction.
It's too easy...
the now quite conventional Shara Nelson, rose to prominence with Massive
Aftack, who have yet to deliver anything as great as "Unfinished Sympathy".
Tricky seems to be the only one still infected by the germ of strangeness
that set MA apart. The noises on his records reflect his streetwise upbringing.
Tricky is due must be the combination of him and Martina. So often, hip
hop merely "features" female vocalists. Martina blends into the music caresses
and envelops it. They met when she was 15, sitting on a wall with her friend.
'Ponderosa' is out now on Island
which during the photo shoot, erupts once every 30 seconds, is a joy to
hearken. Acrackshot, then on upwardly curving nicotine wheeze that in turn
explodes into a good- natured, lascivious cackle a Ia Sid
James. I've just asked him where the smoky, languid, shuffling, bluesy
quality of his two great singles, "Aftermath" and "Ponderosa", comes from.
"I had a very old-fashioned upbringing," he says. "we used to go to Weston-Super-Mare
and buy cockles, weird shit like that. We used to have a coal fire. Not
because we were poor, it was just cos we were old fashioned!"
Oh well, that explains the smokiness. The languid, shuffling, bluesy quality might also be down to the endless Billie Holiday records which his mother and aunt used to play long into the night at his Bristol home as they stared into the dying embers. Like Aftermath", "Ponderosa" is a hip hop record and a great deal more - it's stricken by a palpable mood, a drowsy, sinister air, shifting shapes in the darkness. Over a solemn backbeat and an alluring, aromatic confusion of overdubs, Martina sings, like Poly Styrene about to succumb to general anaesthetic: "Underneath the weeping willow lies a weeping wino..." "I've no idea why I did it like that," says Martina, dragging heavily on a cigarette. "I tried it a couple of ways, then the more drunk I got, the more it just turned out that way." "That's the shit thing about recording," reckons Tricky. "you're sitting around, eating and drinking, smoking spliff all day, you get to abuse yourself more hours of the day."
But maybe that's what makes Martina's vocals. When
you've drunk yourself senseless, smoked yourself stupid, when transmitters have closed down for the night and the room is unlit except for interference from the TV screen, with your ears ringing and your head spinning and the demons are coming out for the night shift, that's when "Ponderosa" comes into play. Long after the dancing has stopped.
"It's good," says Tricky. "I've seen all the club reviews, the club DJs, most of them hate it. And that's f***ing really good news."
"Well, it's not dance music, is it? From the marketing point of view, we're quite young, we're ethnic, the obvious place they're gonna try and shove us is the hip hop or dance market. Whereas I grew up in a white environment. The first people I listened to were The Specials. I had mates who were into The 4 Skins, a very racist band. They were just skinheads, idiots, they didn't know what they were doing. I've got input from all kinds of places. We haven't found a marketing niche."
If anything, "Ponderosa" is a bedroom record, as much as any white, avant-garde outing by, say, Cabaret Voltaire or The Aphex Twin. "Aftermath" was dubbed "hip hop ambient" but Tricky and Martina don't have much truck with ambient. They deride it as a "farce".
Martina: "It's people who are frightened, isn't it? People who can't take the heat, need to escape."
Tricky: "It's a cop-out. You could take all the surrounding noise we're hearing now, put it on a DAT,
photo: Lili Wilde
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