Massive Attack – ‘Heligoland’ (Virgin) 08/02/2010

February 15, 2010 by  

Finally returning after a seven year hiatus, 3d + Daddy G’s eagerly anticipated fifth long player ‘Heligoland’ gets its long overdue release. Good things come to those who wait.

The album Kicks off with a sound opener; the dark, slowly building ‘Pray For Rain’ led by the soothing Tunde ‘TV On The Radio’ Adebimpe’s swooning vocals over a rumbling, thunder-like pulse of a drum beat, while the simple minor heavy keys build to a glorious string filled trippy climax.

Dark to light is a continuous theme throughout the album, in addition to a superb use of space and the Massive Attack staple slow-build being which is used to great effect throughout.

Particular highlights come from the most high profile of the guest appearances, Guy Garvey and Damon Albarn.

‘Flat of the Blade’ benefits from it’s complex, electro robotic sounds which are complimented by the free flowing frailty of Garvey’s smooth vocals, leading to a sound that is completely alien but refreshingly enjoyable.

Frailty is key again with Albarn’s splendiferous ingeminate ‘Do you love me / is there nothing there’, which provides a chilling echo on ‘Saturday Come Slow’.

Both singer’s vocals are almost hypnotic, like seductive snake Kaa from Disney’s Jungle Book singing ‘Trust in me’. The artists smother the space presented by the group with their vocal offerings.

Regular Massive Attack contributor and dub legend Horace Andy is also in dark form for a fine example of the group’s staple genre, trip-hop. On ‘Splitting The Atom’, he lends his vocal to the haunting minimal drums and key combo, and escalating despair laden strings which combine to .

It would come as no surprise if Thom Yorke is kicking himself for not writing ’Rush Minute’ for In Rainbows, likewise Danger Mouse will be for not creating ‘Atlas Air’ for Gnarls Barkley. The closing track is a superb conclusion, beginning as a stripped back ‘Crazy’ with it’s excellent vocal snarl over a simple drum beat before ending as a trippy, house tinged masterpiece.

There are a couple of minor niggles, namely the wasted Martina Topley Bird on distinctly average ‘Babel’ (which I’ve renamed ‘Ryan Babel’), and the one disappointment ‘Psyche’, whose only saving grace is that its simple arrangements offer brief rest bite to the heavy intensity surrounding them.

But minor niggles these indeed are, outweighed by one superb album.

Its main pulling power is its intense darkness which is incredibly easy to immerse yourself in. Heligoland is an experience. It could quite easily work as a one track masterpiece. The stark contrast of the brooding viscera-thumping drum loops, alongside the electro blips, pitched against the frailty of the perfectly chosen and star studded vocals, has produced a most staggering record. Turn everything off and play it through. Massive Attack are back.

[rating:4.5]


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