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Album review: Massive Attack's 'Heligoland'

Massive_Attack_240_  At first glance, the lead track off Massive Attack's new album "Heligoland" seems to have done the improbable and sucked the soul out of Tunde Adebimpe. The TV on the Radio vocalist cameos on "Pray for Rain," where a dissonant piano rolls over jazzy drum fills, and Adebimpe gives maybe his most deadpan vocal performance ever. It's a brooding number that threatens to tax one's patience, until the clouds part into a beatific ending of falsetto harmonies, and the payoff is real and earned.

Much of "Heligoland" works like this -- a dour, glitchy intro of impeccable atmospherics implacably winds its way into something panoramic and exhilarating. From the mannered jungle drumming of "Babel" to the funeral synths of "Flat of The Blade," this is Massive Attack's best attempt yet to reconcile their studio-wonk electronica impulses with a not-so-secret desire to be a Radiohead-worthy rock band at points (funny, Radiohead's been on the same path lately).

Martina Topley-Bird turns in some of the band's best vocal performances, with her glassy alto riding the shivery trance synths of "Psyche." Elbow's Guy Garvey, Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval and Damon Albarn stop in for idiosyncratic turns that the band's huge palette accommodates kindly. And even if "Splitting the Atom" suggests that Massive Attack is better served behind the boards than the microphone, this is expert festival-electro that takes you far.

-- August Brown

Massive Attack
 Three stars (Out of four)

Comments () | Archives (6)

Wow August! I really don't think you understand the audience that Massive Attack performs for. The album's been in a bun-in-the-oven, so to speak for 7 years, and the release obviously reflects not only talent, but musical development for electronica, as well as international trendsetting. Not to mention, the artists featured on Heligoland were perfect picks.

looking forward to this one

Have to agree with Spinbanks. Seems clear that the reviewer hasn't been paying much attention to the evolution of Massive Attack, or this whole genre of music at all. If the best you can do is point Radiohead-ward to guess that maybe this is where the genre is going, then you're sadly out of touch.

I really liked this cd. I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but I really liked this album a lot. Even if you don't regularly listen to something like this, I think you should give it a go sometime when you have the chance to lay back and absorb some really beautiful and relaxing music. You can read my full review here: http://www.kreetik.com/1/post/2010/02/massive-attack-heligoland.html

Im a huge Massive fan, but I was really disappointed by this album, actually. I thought the female contributions were flat as hell and the music, dirge like and uncreative, frankly. Its clear to me that the various members of the wild bunch need each other. Tricky went nuts without the boundaries placed on him by massive , and massive got boring without his and nelly hoopers creative fire. Its a shame. Blue Lines , protection and to a lesser extent mezzanine , were real works of art. Joys to experience. There is no joy here (except maybe horace andy once again stealing the show).
I agree with the reviewer in one aspect, I think 3D wants to be radiohead.
too bad...

She gave it 3/4 stars; I don't think she was being harsh!
I think it was a pretty great album, but too many synth drum beats. I didn't really like "Paradise Circus." I liked "Flat of the Blade" and "Atlas Air."


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