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Ununiform [Digipak] *


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  • On the Bristol trip-hop icon's 13th official studio effort, ununiform, hints of Tricky's glory days and ghosts from his mid-era experiments come together in an adequately enjoyable merger. Engineered by Jay-Z, this follow-up to 2016's Skilled Mechanics contains just enough fresh ideas to warrant a listen. For longtime fans, the good news is that ununiform includes a sufficient amount of his trademark claustrophobia and paranoia to remind them of his early era, with tracks like "Obia Intro," the menacing "It's Your Day," and the lush acoustics of the Portishead-evoking "The Only Way" emerging as emotive highlights. When Tricky retreats to lurk in the dark corners of ununiform, an impressive roster of guests emerges. Frequent collaborator Francesca Belmonte appears on "New Stole," which is essentially her 2015 single reimagined with some Tricky growls. Another familiar face, early muse and ex-girlfriend Martina Topley-Bird, delivers an album-closing standout with "When We Die," a classic-sounding rumination on mortality. Elsewhere, Asia Argento whispers her way through the patient "Wait for Signal" while Rituals of Mine vocalist Terra Lopez lets loose on the highlight "Armor." While Russian rapper Smoky Mo contributes a show-stealing but all-too-brief verse on "Bang Boogie," it's actually Kazakh rapper Scriptonite who is the album's secret weapon and true MVP. Appearing on almost a third of ununiform, his presence adds tension to songs like the throbbing "Same as It Ever Was" and the pensive "Blood of My Blood," a perfect foil to Tricky's musings. Two decades after Maxinquaye and it's difficult not to continue comparing his subsequent output to that landmark debut, however unfairly. So while this LP is yet another release that is not Maxinquaye, compared to the average Tricky album, it's accessible, mostly focused, and offers a handful of moments that remind listeners of his early promise and hold attention until his next effort. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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