Like his 1996 LP Nearly God, Tricky's 2016 release Skilled Mechanics falls somewhere between a proper artist album and a side project. Collaborators are heavy in the mix, many of them coming from the trip-hop survivor's label, False Idols, but if this LP was just meant to pimp the roster, then confessional masterpieces like "Boy" ("At 12 I met my dad, his name was "Roy"/He forget my name, he call me "Boy") wouldn't be dropped here. A wistful and indie-influenced tune with Luke Harris crooning most of it, the highlight "How's Your Life" is another personal journey as Tricky realizes his homebody style and middle age nature mean friends slowly drift away, but in true Nearly God fashion, this is also a spiritually free album, so don't be shocked when Porno for Pyros' "Diving Away" gets a two-minute, loose run-through with a thumb piano driving the melody. "Beijing to Berlin" is mostly a tribute to its guest artist, Chinese rapper and producer Ivy, as a hyped-up Tricky gets dope-boy fresh and spits "She's amazing, She's amazing," and then with the cold force of Dr. Dre, "She's from Beijing." Other tracks find the MC mumbling over Luke Harris and DJ Milo's indie electronica songs. Many of the cuts run somewhere in the two-minute range when they could be stretched further and yet the Massive Attack-like riffs and fantastic production ideas flow through every track. The whole thing comes off as an imaginary Tricky radio station where the DJ plays his own stuff and mixes himself into other artist's tracks, so if alternate views and unclassifiable collections are desired, Skilled Mechanics isn't a lark or a side project but a necessity.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries