Massive Attack have never been known for working under pressure, but after a seven year interlude they have returned. Their debut Blue Lines (1991) was a new sound, not before heard. Almost twenty years on, their fifth studio album Heligoland, is still as fresh, dirty, yet warm and enveloping as ever.
Heligoland, described as ‘the best collaboration of the generation’ by some still pushes the boundaries. Throughout the album you hear sounds not far removed from the likes of Portishead or Radiohead with real ‘world music’ undertones, but still unmistakeably Massive Attack. The opening track Pray For Rain is almost certainly one of the best, with a powerful yet breaking beat throughout, and a solid, yet strangely involving melancholic chord sequence. Follow this with Babel, the cold, close and almost clammy sound of the track and the album is off to a grimy, personal and hugely addictive start. Two tracks in, and you are already irrevocably involved in this masterpiece.
The dingy, offbeat baseline of Splitting The Atom is what we have come to know and love from Massive Attack, although the sound is neither old nor boring, but more like meeting an acquaintance from years ago – friendly, familiar, but still different and new. The excellent faster paced Girl I Love You follows, and you are instantly knocked back by a solid baseline, only complimented by the accompanying horns, which help make the track another instant classic.
Flat Of The Blade, featuring vocals from Elbow’s Guy Garvey is instantly haunting, with a delicious electro twist. The beat, though twitchy is not irregular and provides a haven of consistency while Garvey mystifies and almost finds a type of soul-jazz. Followed by the sombre Paradise Circus, the silky smooth piano is worked well, with the classic ‘hand clap’ used to maximum effect. Vocals by Hope Sandoval compliment the off-kilter piano meaning you really do feel her despair.
A smooth delivery makes Rush Minute all that more enjoyable, although not much more can be said except it’s about the right length, and does just sound as Massive Attack should. Saturday Comes Slow, the penultimate track featuring Damon Albarn however is almost too short. The less imposing, more simple beat and melody fully compliments Albarn’s voice, leaving you wishing it went on and on. A genuine soulfulness is found here, with Albarn almost crying ‘do you love me’ again and again, and you really do want to say yes.
Atlas Air leaves you wanting more, with an addictive sound and even more addictive beat. A well worked techno interlude adds to the intensity of the track that builds to a crescendo then closes with another delicious techno indulgence.
Heligoland sees Massive Attack go back to their roots, but still be completely new after the lacklustre anti climax that was 100th Window. Only comparable in quality and sheer audible pleasure to Blue Lines and Mezzanine, it is simply a must have for anyone new to Massive Attack, existing fans or anyone looking for a dirty beat and addictive, soul-thumping genius.
February 8, 2010
01. Pray For Rain (vocals – Tunde Adebimpe)
02. Babel (vocals – Martina Topley-Bird)
03. Splitting The Atom (vocals – D, G and Horace Andy)
04. Girl I Love You± (vocals – Horace Andy)
05. Psyche (vocals – Martina Topley-Bird)
06. Flat Of The Blade (vocals – Guy Garvey)
07. Paradise Circus (vocals – Hope Sandoval)
08. Rush Minute (vocals – D)
09. Saturday Comes Slow (vocals – Damon Albarn)
10. Atlas Air (vocals – D)