A skeletal, scour-throated producer who regularly paints tremulous-but-thunderous songs of rain-grey, council-flattened hustling and solitary suffering, Tricky has released a beautiful new song called "The Only Way." The track was intended to provide a sort of belated companion piece to "Hell Is Round The Corner," from his career-making 1995 record Maxinquaye. (Historical sidebar: Both that song and Portishead's "Glory Box," released the same year, share an unforgettable sample from Isaac Hayes' "Ike's Rap II," which practically makes that sample the bedrock of trip-hop in the popular imagination.)
"A few years ago, I'd have said I ain't doing this because it sounds like me," he writes in a statement that accompanied the song's announcement. "I always had a punk-rock attitude: I don't give a f*** if you like Maxinquaye, I ain't doing another Maxinquaye." That's changed, he says.
A psilocybic video accompanies the release of "The Only Way"; marbled floors and the Virgin Mary and mourning flowers endlessly pan across an undulating lighting rig of pink and red. The effect is both unsettling and comforting, well-intentioned but nightmarish.
Isolation is a common theme throughout Tricky's catalog, and "The Only Way" locates it once more — this time over a gently weeping piano melody, a dead-simple rhythm section and a gorgeously louche, Bond-referencing chorus from a string quartet. "Alien / Not from this earth," he sings. But it's a pleasure to have him here.