Massive Attack – Splitting The Atom EP (Virgin) 05/11/09

November 7, 2009 by  

massive-attack-splitting-the-atom-ep

Bristol heavyweights Massive Attack have always struggled to cope with the expectation that follows the creation of a masterpiece. Since “Blue Lines” in ‘91, critics have always been quick to snipe, labelling each release as a shadow of what had come before. Most harshly treated in this way was 2003’s “100th Window”, causing an extended delay which should end with the release of “LP5”, slated for Feb 2010. Although who knows, Massive Attack have previously set its release for 2004, 05, 07, 08 and 2009.

Whether or not LP5 materialises, the wait for new material has ended with the release of “Splitting The Atom EP”, a four track limited release that gives us a glimpse of what we can hope for next year. And the signs, although a little mixed, are generally good.

The E.P opens with the title track “Splitting The Atom”, a 5.17 back and forth journey of a track, featuring reggae veteran Horace Andy. An eerie sci-fi style synth introduces an identified deep, husky growl. Andy’s croon is reserved for a mellow chorus, creating a real light/dark feel to the song.

Tunde Adebimpe fills the guest vocalist spot on “Pray for Rain”, probably the best track on the EP, a great example of the creation of mood through layered sound. While Adebimpe’s unique tone and delivery make this a compelling and haunting listen, a problem becomes more apparent. Apart from the rolling drumbeat which is so familiar, where exactly is the Massive Attack influence on the track?

The second half of the EP comprises two remixes of previous works, Van Rivers and The Subliminal Kid are let lose on the Guy Garvey-sung “Bulletproof Love”, while the Flash Treatment reworking of “Psyche” gives a new boost to the fantastic voice of Martina Topley-Bird.

“Bulletproof Love” is a bit of a disappointment, with the aforementioned duo effectively neutering the power of Guy Garvey’s voice, without adding anything of substance to replace it. “Psyche” is a much more interesting proposition. Topley-Bird is a guest vocalist extraordinaire, and her pitch shifting vocals are perfect for the track. Also reassuring is the reappearance of the echo-effect percussion that is more familiar Massive Attack territory.

Is “Splitting The Atom” going to reassure the music world that the Bristol boys are on the way back to the top? Maybe not. There is too little evidence of any kind of unifying theme on display, too much willingness to hand over creative control to the guest musicians. But neither is it a disaster. It shows that Massive Attack can still attract and use the best contemporary artists to the cause.

And who knows? Chances are the album will be put off for another year and completely rewritten. But I know that I want a copy when it does finally arrive.

[rating:3.5]

Liam Clune


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