not a member? click here to sign up
They redefined the parameters of contemporary music, creating weird, eerie and magnificent soundscapes. Now, as they prepare to release a career retrospective, Massive Attack talk about their choice of collaborators and why they agreed to soundtrack a porn movie.
Craig Fitzsimons, 28 Mar 2006
Terms like ‘seminal’, ‘pioneering’ and ‘ground-breaking’ are often flung around far too liberally. But in Massive Attack’s case, they can all be deployed without any fear of exaggeration. In a very real sense, the Bristol collective can be credited with inventing a new musical language.
Variously described as ‘trip-hop’, ‘drum 'n’ bass’ and simply ‘the Bristol sound’, the genesis of the entire phenomenon can be directly traced to recordings made in the late ‘80s by the then Wild Bunch.
By the time their debut album Blue Lines hit the shelves in 1991, it was evident that something quite astonishing was afoot.
Dark, arresting, hypnotic grooves with an abnormally evocative, almost cinematic atmosphere had their roots in American hip-hop, but in their scale and ambition, were truly unlike anything anyone had heard before.
Massive Attack’ efforts soon formed the template for the efforts of dozens of like-minded bands – Portishead and Morcheeba leap to mind – but none were able to remotely replicate the original’s power.
Though infrequent, their albums (six to date, including two film soundtracks) invariably proved well worth the wait. A compilation was long overdue, a situation finally rectified by the release of Collected, an almighty anthology of the Massive journey so far.
Collected cometh in two parts: Disc One is a 14-song travelogue of their acknowledged highlights, Disc Two an intriguing odds’n’sods mixture of rare, unreleased and half-buried material spanning the last decade. Its highlight, to these ears, is ‘Silent Spring’, featuring the wondrously ethereal, near-hallucinatory vocals of Elizabeth Fraser, whose work with The Cocteau Twins will hopefully be taught in schools a hundred years hence, if the world’s still there.
Indeed, sympathetic collaborations with a certain kind of female vocalist have always been one of Massive Attack’s specialities: they’ve recorded with Madonna, Sinead O’Connor, Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn and several similar sirens. (Instructed by Hot Press to pursue the possibility of working with Ronnie Spector, they promise to do what they can.)