Anyone who is a fan of electronica, has to know about the Bristol, U.K. group, Massive Attack. Branded for their mysterious and innovative tracks, they have released a total of eight albums-and are known for their creative vocal collaborations. What’s special about this group is its penchant for creating atmospheres with their sound. In a nutshell, here are ten are their most decorated pieces and the reasons why they are soÃ¢Â?Â¦
1. “Protection” – This 1994 title track featured Everything But the Girl’s Tracy Thorn. Her silky precise vocal stylings were absolutely perfect for this stark, yet biting hip-hop enhanced track. The cool nature of the song, makes it the perfect down tempo chill-out song. Look for a heavily reduced tempo, James Brown sample as the song’s underscore.
2. “Angel” – Soundtrack Alert!! This song has been featured in a few different films, Snatch (2000) and Go (1999), just to name a few. Also, a nearly similar melody was also used in the movie Murder By Numbers, but was altered enough to prevent the film from engaging in royalty issues. It begins with a simple heartbeat-like percussion. The song itself is extremely sparse, with male vocals layered underneath rippling percussion and a course build-up of intensity toward the fiery guitar solo in the middle of the song. “Angel” then succeeds in slowing back down to the heartbeat percussion all the way until the end. It’s truly a hypnotic song.
3. “Black Milk” – I listened to this song on repeat as I traveled by train to Washington DC through the darkness of night. The female singer on this track has a pointy, yet soothing voice that glides very easily over the music.
This song was the perfect accompaniment, as it sounds like a mesmerizing carousel ride for the ears.
4. “Group Four” – Another spellbinding track from Massive Attack’s Mezzanine album is “Group Four.” This song begins with a rather odd “rap” by one of the lead male vocalists. And then singer Liz Fraser begins her wispy ascent into one of the group’s most captivating songs. I like that the song builds in intensity slightly toward the end, with rather Eastern-sounding musical effects. This is yet another melody that goes on repeat in my CD player.
5. “Sly” – This Massive Attack groove reminds me a lot of their later release of Black Milk. The tempo is a down tempo rendition of introspection, released through singer, Nicollette’s jazzy vocals. The strings behind the percussion are very lush yet dark.
6. “What Your Soul Sings” – Presented on the 100th Window albums, Sinead O’Connor delivers a distressing, yet engaging arrangement of lyrics. The music is everything that Massive Attack is known for. Her frail delivery is perfect for the subject matter, which advises the listener to find his/her own sense of personal joy. It’s really a touching song that avoids being sappy because of its careful musical orchestration.
7. “Better Things” – Again, Everything But the Girl’s Tracy Thorn succeeds in presenting a fresh, yet adult portrayal of musical poetry. “Better Things” has a slight reggae/jazz influence in the musical presentation. It does not go too over the top. And Tracy’s vocals set the mood far away from anything Jamaican. However, the slight lilt in percussion makes the song sound oddly tropical, yet dark.
8. “Unfinished Sympathy” – “Unfinished Sympathy” is one of Massive Attack’s first hits from their debut album Blue Lines. The title when spoken, always reminded me of the term ‘unfinished symphony,’ which I suppose is what the group was going for-because the music truly does sound “symphonic.” At any rate, the singer in this song, Shara Nelson really nailed the emotion of the lyrics. Furthermore, the strings set against the trip hop percussion were the perfect blend to make this song a hit. If you rent the 1993 Sharon Stone flick, “Sliver,” you can hear it on the soundtrack.
9. “Inertia Creeps” – Oddly enough, this weird-tempoed song reminds me immediately of the Victoria’s Secret commercial that it was once used in. The models of course are writhing around in whatever was the latest in Vickie’s undie drawer. However, what stands out the most is the thumping percussion, which sounds like a timpani amongst other percussive sounds. The male vocals in this track are simple. And the rumbling bass beat lends the song a “tribal” effect.
10. “Spying Glass” – This song appears to have heavy reggae influences. Singer Horace Andy’s strange, squeaky vocals fit faultlessly over these slight Jamaican touches. The song is still very much Massive Attack, as the background instrumentation remains true to the group’s catalogue of trip-hop based melodies. It can also be spotted in the soundtrack of Samuel Jackson’s 1997 thriller “187.”
To be quite frank, one definitely does not have to be a loyal trip-hop fan in order to appreciate Massive Attack’s broad range of musical productions. The variety of vocalists and moods the catalogue creates is what has made the U.K. band so popular. Furthermore, if you’ve gone to the movies anytime during the past decade, chances are-you’ve already heard more than your fair share of Massive Attack.