Massive Attack, ‘Heligoland’ – First Listen

In a gestation that’s seen the masters of trip-hop displaying the kind of regard to deadlines and promptness more usual to big-budget rap records, this album’s had more rumoured release dates than NME’s had hangovers, coming a full seven years after the release of last album ‘100th Window’. Still, Daddy G and 3-D are masters of the slow burn… so has ‘Heligoland’ (which originally had the working title ‘Weather Underground’) been worth the wait?


‘Pray For Rain’
Already familiar from its debut on last year’s Splitting The Atom’ EP, this tense, moody track features guest vocals from TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, sounding more relaxed, reserved and natural than we’ve heard him on any TVOTR stuff. Rippling drum rolls echo approaching thunder while thrumming synths give the feeling of prickly, charged air before-the-storm. It’s a masterfully slow build that from quiet and tasteful territory swells into something quite menacing and heavy before breaking into a sunny, Lemon Jelly-ish radiance.

A distinctly Warp-ish soundworld here, with cold and crunchy beats reminiscent of Autechre, and the kind of liquid, organic sounds that Leila revels in. It’s quite hypnotic, but on first listen there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of progression or excitement, and Martina Topley-Bird’s lazy-sexy voice sounds a little wasted, needing more drama to offset it.

‘Splitting The Atom’
Daddy G’s low boom reverberates round this dark, carnivalesque vamp. The title might suggest a catastrophic release of energy, but the track itself is muted and subdued, Horace Andy sounding unusually subdued.

‘Girl I Love You’
This track has a lovely, shuderring, rippling, thrumming energy, driven by a loping, low bassline that suddenly steps up into a taut hip hop rhythm.

Martina Topley-Bird is adrift in a sea of circling synths, a mood of sunstruck paranoia, tense but listless.

‘Flat Of The Blade’
It’s great to hear Guy Garvey of Elbow‘s voice in such an unfamiliar context, his warm Bury tones like wood in a metallic, liquid world of burbling electronics. He’s in dark mood, too, murmuring “I will build for my family a bulletproof morgue…” as brass builds to a martial, menacing swell.


‘Paradise Circus’
This is very reminiscent of MTB’s Danger Mouse-produced solo album ‘The Blue God’, but rather than the lady herself, features guest vocals from Hope Sandoval, formerly of Mazzy Star, gracing a moody, pastel-tined and subtle soundscape that builds into a rushing orgasm of strings.

‘Rush Minute’
3D, owner of one of the sexiest mutters in all music, proves he still hasn’t lost that seethe. Beginning with minimal drum and guitar, this builds into a roiling and murky sulk giving in to nelancholic rushes of keys.

‘Saturday Come Slow’
Who’d have thought Damon Albarn’s voice would be such a perfect fit for the Massive sound? Sounding melancholic and rich, he croons “do you love me”. The urgent, melancholy dripping mood is topped by rich layers of acousic guitar and strings rippling and gentle like leaves in the breeze.

‘Atlas Air’
A very simple synth riff and beat, sounding weirdly like super-slowed down rave. From these gothic, hazy beginnings it ends by tipping itself into a deep, housey K-hole.