Following on from last month’s somber tribute to David Bowie’s Blackstar (which in all honesty would still have been album of the month despite the legend’s tragic death), we turn our attentions to a group that have had an equally awe-inspiring effect on British music, Trip Hop pioneers Massive Attack.
Admittedly, their latest release Ritual Spirit is in fact an EP, however because the iconic Bristol outfit hasn’t officially released anything since 2010’s Heligoland (which features the wonderfully sedating Paradise Circus, used as the theme tune for the acclaimed Idris Elba BBC series Luther), an exception has to be made for such a widely celebrated and influential group as Massive Attack, led by the ingenious Robert Del Naja.
Formed in 1988, the group consists of Grant ‘Daddy G’ Marshall and Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja (derived from Del Naja’s love of graffiti art) and remain one of the true great faceless acts in all of music. Their debut album Blue Lines (1991) and its follow up Mezzanine (1998) are both considered stone cold classics in unearthing a movement and a sound that broke barriers at the time. Their innovative use of sampling and live instrumentation to create atmospheric, layered music was completely alien upon release and still every single release of theirs reveals a different, multi-faceted side to the group.
Having not released anything since 2010, the group hired the collaborative talents of some of the brightest sparks of British Hip Hop to craft an EP that is an addictive appetiser for their scheduled album release later this year hopefully (despite Del Naja claiming in 2013 the album was getting its finishing touches). Four tracks feature the godfather of UK Hip Hop Roots Manuva, the exemplary young Scottish trio Young Fathers and the legendary Tricky (who was originally a member but left the group in 1994 to pursue a solo career but remains an integral part of the group’s history and appeal).
Last week the video to “Voodoo In My Blood” (featuring Young Fathers) dropped and was greeted to controversial reaction due to the contents of the narrative. It involves British actress Rosamund Pike, who becomes possessed by a mysterious drone-like object before laughing and dancing hysterically under its control. The video completely summarises the technologically eerie society we live in, albeit in hilarious fashion, however it’s just what Massive Attack do best: going above and beyond their music to portray the message.
Massive Attack will forever remain the British group that really tested their own limits and who in turn altered the way music was perceived and consumed. This release abides by those principals and more.