Tuesday 28 November 2023

You Think You're Right But You're Just Numb

At 1,154 seconds (that's 19:14 in common parlance), When It's Going Wrong by Marta and Tricky is a strong contender for the shortest album of 2023, but it's packed full of great ideas, delivered with a assurance that's come from years of studio collaboration and on-stage performance.

Marta Złakowska is based in Krakow, Poland and her musical journey took a markedly different route when she met Tricky in November 2017. Marta has been a staple of Tricky albums and live concerts since and, despite the co-credit, When It's Going Wrong is her debut album, produced by the visionary Bristolian.
Like Tricky's own releases, there's an instantly recognisable sound and feel that runs through his music without ever sounding repetitive. None of the songs outstay their welcome: the longest is 2:42; nearly half are under the 2-minute mark.
The title track falls into the latter and presents a challenge for video director Mateusz Miszczyńsk, who presents a short sharp narrative set on a night-time bus, the camera panning a couple of times to Marta as the story comes to an inevitable rest.
Moving Through Water is another highlight, the opening riff coming on like Man Size by PJ Harvey, Marta's voice against a steady back beat and Tricky's backing vocals. The song hits even harder when you realise that it's a homage to Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird's daughter Mazy, who's life tragically ended in 2019 at the age of 24. 
Now I'm swimming, I'm moving through water
And I'm singing, I sing for my daughter 
A video was also released for the album's second song, Today. It's a visually arresting montage of early 20th century clips given a 21st century spruce up and again, an interesting companion piece to the words and music. If the lyrics sound vaguely familiar, it's because Today is a cover version of a 1967 song by this band.

When It's Going Wrong closes with a another cover, this time of  of a Polish song, Czarno Czarny, presented here almost as a lullaby and a ray of hope that things can move on and be better.

For all it's brevity, this is not an album of musical sketches and half-formed ideas. When It's Going Wrong is a full and enriching performance, all the more astonishing given that some albums deliver less with twice (or more) the running time.

As a complementary set, here's an utterly engrossing hour in the company of Tricky, posted on 5th March this year for the ARTE Concert YouTube channel. There's a 10-song live set filmed at Ground Control in Paris, Marta sharing the stage and giving a powerfully understated performance. Moving Through Water and When It's Going Wrong get a preview ahead of the album's release later that month. 
The gig is peppered with cutaways to Tricky being interviewed in a record shop. Tricky is still the Knowle West Boy, never losing the Bristol burr or his grounding, success measured by the ability to do what he wants (musically) and keep collaborating with other artists and continue to release records, year on year.

When It's Going Wrong by Marta and Tricky is an incredible album on many levels and worth repeated listening. Track down a physical copy if you can in your favourite record store or add the digital version to your shopping list for the upcoming Bandcamp Friday.

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