March 10, 2010

Album Review: Massive Attack - Heligoland

Anyone listened to Massive Attack’s Heligoland yet? One look at the cover-art will tell you what you need to know, but here’s what I've decided anyway; I can't just classify it as something I would normally pick up. Before this album I was only vaguely familiar with the trip-hop genre. And maybe it was better that way, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it, but the album was getting quite a bit of press as Massive Attack had broken up for a while, and had been quite popular through the 90’s, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

The group, along with a who’s who of the Britain indie music scene, got together to record the album that has been in the works since the mid 2000’s. The tracks are really a slow, stripped down version of trance music with some repetitious hooks and drawn out vocals. I guess that’s the essence of a trip-hop album to start with. I could imagine a lot of people on drugs enjoying this, and it would go killer with some seriously strange artwork, like the album cover.

All sarcasm and cheap digs at the genre as a whole aside, the album has some serious finesse to it. It’s tough for me to listen to these albums on the whole because I can only take so much bass drum, but the tracks show restraint, as well as some really cool transitions from one part of a song to the next. For the most part, the guest selection was spot-on. The vocalists were not overpowering to the music, but rather additive.  Martina Topley-Bird (“Babel” and “Psyche”) and Tunde Adebimpe (“Pray for Rain”) sounded fantastic on their tracks, and the vocals provided by Marshall and Del Naja themselves fit the tone of the album well. The highlight track for me was “Saturday Come Slow,” with Damon Albarn on vocals.  There is form to this song, rather than the free-flowing , no boundaries style of the rest of the album. If there is a second single from the album, expect this one.

Although this album won’t be climbing the charts in the U.S. anytime soon (it’s certainly not mainstream radio material), it’s not a wholly unsatisfying listen. Take a listen the next time you have 45 minutes to kill in a dark room with cool colors, and let me know what you think on the other side.


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