Sequel of the Week: Heligoland

Album Cover for Massive Attack's Heligoland (2010)

This blog was intended to be about games, art and animation, not music, but with no disrespect meant to Bioshock II, Massive Attack’s Heligoland is my most anticipated sequel of the week and I would like to devote a few words to the album.

Introduced to the band through “Dissolved Girl’s” brief appearance in The Matrix, I backtracked from Mezzanine to Blue Lines, eagerly awaited 100th Window in 2003, and somewhere along the way acquired their limited edition Singles ’90/’98 collection. I have gone to see movies purely because this band recorded the score. Nowhere along the way would I have necessarily have claimed they were one of my favorite bands, but I have been a devoted listener for over a decade and I somehow own their complete discography. Suffice it to say that I was pretty excited to hear they had a new album coming out, especially after seven years of silence.

When Heligoland finally arrived, it wasn’t until I hit track four that I really believed I was listening to a Massive Attack album. 100th Window, though my least favorite album, was still a direct evolution of the sound the band employed on Mezzanine; it was only with the familiarity of long-time collaborator Horace Andy’s voice and the rolling beat on “Girl I Love You” that I could connect Heligoland to the back catalogue. It is a different sort of album, and the style of the band has condensed—the sound is darker, a sort of sonic Pandora’s box that sometimes feels even more threatening than the densest moments of Mezzanine—but the guest vocalists are used to greater effect than they have been since perhaps 1994’s Protection, and there is an uplifting aftertaste to each song. The voices of Horace Andy and Robert Del Naja keep the new sounds grounded, and the rest of the songs each fall into place. It took a couple of listens, but this is definitely a Massive Attack album.

It took years for the spare minimalism of electronica over the past decade to mature into balanced work like Gui Boratto’s album Take My Breath Away. Massive Attack have undergone a similar evolution since 2003, and it is fitting that it was Boratto’s remix of “Paradise Circus” that finally sold me on what they have become. Heligoland is an album created a full decade into the 21st century. Massive Attack have stripped down their sound, rebuilt it, and infused it with a clarity they haven’t had in years. This album is dark so it can be uplifting, resolute so it can surprise you, and it truly sings in remixes. I’m a fan.

The album is available on iTunes.