Review : Massive Attack - Splitting the Atom
PitchforkIn a recent interview, Massive Attack's Daddy G claimed dubstepper Burial might remix the entire forthcoming Massive Attack album the same way Mad Professor remixed Protection on No Protection a decade and a half ago. That's a great look for Massive Attack; Burial's moody skitter-fog should mesh beautifully with Massive Attack's heady creep. But if the teaser EP Splitting the Atom is any indication, that Burial remix joint will probably make a better and more convincing Massive Attack album than the next actual Massive Attack album.
That's not really a surprise. In the past 18 years, Massive Attack have released only four albums. And the last of those, 2003's 100th Window, was the first album of theirs to fully fade into wallpaper when you weren't paying very close attention. Since then, they've busied themselves with stuff like the score to the fairly badass Jet Li flick Unleashed, seemingly giving up on recapturing the power they once had. Back when they were pretty much inventing trip-hop, the group built bruised hellscapes out of whatever they could find: dusty rap breakbeats, film-score orchestral stabs, creeped-out 2-Tone skank. They knew just when to drop something unexpected into the mix, like the downtuned metal guitar that always raised goosebumps on "Angel". But on 100th Window, they stopped building tracks, letting the grooves just sit there instead. And despite the deeply impressive roster of guest vocalists on Splitting the Atom, they're still stuck in that rut-- and, just as alarmingly, so are their remixers....full text
DrownedinsoundIt’s been six long years in dance music since Massive Attack released their last LP, 100th Window. Time enough for minimal techno to 'go over' into clubland, for DFA to capitalise on the success they’d already started garnering, and for electro’s giddy rise and eventual stagnation. Such events have failed to lure the Bristol trip-hoppers into the studio, though; they’re a group who’ve always imbued a sense of being out-of-step and unconcerned with what goes on around them. But when Burial’s Untrue consecrated dubstep’s rise from south east London in 2007, it seemed that, in its dark expanse and bleak surburban dystopia, it was a long-lost relative to Blue Lines, an album that even Massive Attack themselves hadn’t tried to re-create. Until now that is.
If Splitting The Atom represents a preview of their forthcoming fifth LP, then it seems that time in the studio’s been spent dealing in some serious retrospection. Daddy G returns alongside 3D after skipping 100th Window, but the real story concerns the big guns that have been wheeled out in an attempt to provide a refresh of the queasily still atmospherics that the Bristol duo (then trio) made their hallmark, almost two decades ago. Long-term collaborators Horace Andy and Martina Topley-Bird return; joined by a ubiquitous Guy Garvey, as well as TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. It’s a line-up to drool over, and yet over the course of two tracks and two remixes, there’s an uneasy feeling that Massive Attack aren’t entirely sure how best to utilise the talent at their disposal. Garvey’s vocal, for one, is flat and uninterested, sinking amongst the minimal bass squelch of ‘Bulletproof Love’, to the extent that only a double-check of the track credits provide solid proof that it is in fact the Elbow frontman. Adebimpe is more impressive, adding some much needed bite to an otherwise sleepy ‘Pray For Rain’. It is notable, though, that of all the cooks stirring the broth here, the familiar tones of Andy and Topley-Bird are those that feel fully realised; the former wrapping his spindly Caribbean lilt around the title track, whilst the latter skips across the cold hiss of ‘Psyche’. It’s not enough though....full text
BlogcriticsOn October 6 Massive Attack is set to release their first new material in three years, and it has been worth the wait. I was never a huge Massive Attack fan - although I can't say I ever spent any real time listening to them, so maybe it was just lack of exposure that led me to feel like I was listening to a band for the first time when I heard their new material - or perhaps they have progressed with their music and produced a finely polished product in their new EP Splitting The Atom.
With guest artists like Horace Andy, Tunde Adebimpe (TV On The Radio), Martina Topley-Bird, and Guy Garvey that album manages to pull many different voices into a solid and unified product that is like audio velvet - dark and textured to look at, but soft to the touch. Two of the tracks were also remixed, one by Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid and one by Christoff Berg, and their work is really ingenious as the album is a single fluid and consistent work - a perfect mix that can be hard to achieve when so many collaborators are involved.
Splitting the Atom got me excited for the release of Massive Attack's next studio album - number 5 - which should come out in February of 2010 and involves many of the same collaborators that worked on the EP. Currently in the middle of their first full UK tour in three years and just having won the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award, Massive Attack are poised for a strong re-emergence on the music scene, and the upcoming EP is an exciting peek at what is to come....full text
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