"Heligoland" by Massive Attack

Massive Attack
Heligoland

Virgin
2010

Review

It's always taken a village to raise a Massive Attack album, and this one is no different. However, this time in addition to the usual list of Massive Attack collaborators (Martina-Topley Bird, Grant Marshall, Horace Andy, and Robert Del Naja) we are also treated to some special guests like Tunde Adebimpe (TV On The Radio), Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorrilaz, The Good The Bad and The Queen), Guy Garvey (Elbow), and Hope Sandoval. Some may see this as a welcome change from the last album to carry the Massive Attack name while I just see it as different. Thankfully each of the new collaborators fits perfectly with the old familiars and fans of Massive Attack will love this.

It is true "100th Window" was very different from what Massive Attack fans were used to with it's lack of external samples, whispered lryical style, and generally dark musical stylings and artwork (not to mention it was essentially a Robert Del Naja solo record) but well, I quite liked it .

So for those of you who missed the rest of the Massive Attack collective feel free to rejoice because as you can see from the list of collaborators, this is one Tricky away from being a complete set. Personally, I didn't miss Tricky because the guests add another unexpected layer to what you might have come to expect.

Here are my impressions:

Pray For Rain - This sounds very much like a TV On The Radio track, and that is a good thing considering it has vocals by Tunde Adebimpe. With its rain-pattered drumming and chime of the clock sounding keys, it makes for a nice pairing.

Babel - Damn it's nice to hear Martina Topley-Bird over a Massive Attack production. They go together like beer and hotdogs (or wine and cheese, depending on whether or not you're at a baseball game). Martina sounds great singing some very poetic lyrics over what is what of the strongest tracks on the album. For example:

Say it was your babel
Said it was my babel
It was my babel
Tell all people

But you know it's over
Rolling off her shoulder
You can take a ladder to the shadows and forget
Was it how she kissed you and dismissed you
Was it purposeful or was it just to hook you in?

Splitting The Atom and Girl I Love You - For me these two tracks were the weakest on the album. Not that I didn't enjoy the reggae stylings of Horace Andy over a sleepy little track featuring the Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall on MC duty over a bassline that reminded me of "Atomic Dog" (in the case of "Splitting the Atom"). I just felt these were a bit too reminiscent of tracks off of Mezzanine.

Psyche - This as close as Massive Attack get to making a Pop track - by pairing some playful acoustic guitar and bass lines over an uncharacterisiticly upbeat track. It is a deceivingly simple track that is sure to stay in your head for days.

Flat Of The Blade - Ambient electronic sounds of the blip and bloop (and occasionally a splat) variety are combined with the strange humming of Guy Garvey - who seems to be singing about being a secret assassin - to make for an interesting and very experimental in that unique Massive Attack way that winds up being greater than the sum of its parts (and is it me, or does Guy Garvey sound a lot Antony Hegarty of Antony And The Johnson's and Hercules and Love Affair fame. I seriously thought it was him when I first heard the song).

Paradise Circus - Hope Sandoval's wispy voice is a good fit for a Massive Attack track although she reminds me a lot of Martina which is probably the point.

Rush Minute and Atlas Air - Probably my absolute favorite tracks on the album (followed closely by those that feature Martina Topley-Bird). For fans of "100th Window" like myself, it is great to here tracks that exclusively feature Del Naja. "Atlas Air" sounds frightening. It makes me wonder what a horror movie soundtrack produced by Massive Attack might sound like.

Saturday Come Slow - I could listen to a whole album of Damon Albarn as produced by Massive Attack. He's in full on emotional torment mode here in a very powerful and raw track. Quite reminicient of the work he did with The Good The Bad and The Queen.

...yup, it's a good year to be a fan of strange electronic and instrumental music.

4.100 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Pray for Rain (06:44) 4
2. Babel (05:19) 5
3. Splitting the Atom (05:16) 3
4. Girl I Love You (05:26) 4
5. Psyche (03:24) 5
6. Flat of the Blade (05:30) 4
7. Paradise Circus (04:57) 4
8. Rush Minute (04:50) 5
9. Saturday Come Slow (03:43) 4
10. Atlas Air (07:48) 3