By Will Throp
Following a six-year absence, masters of Trip-Hop Massive Attack made a welcome return last month. As Will Throp discovers, the duo’s atmospherics on new EP Ritual Spirit have lost none of their vitality over the interim period.
It’s a question worth asking – can Massive Attack can still cut it in 2016? The world has moved on after all – those heady 90’s days in which ‘Teardrop’ soundtracked a generation’s awkward awakening seem an awfully long time ago. Happily, the duo put such fears to rest with their latest offering. ‘Ritual Spirit’ is Massive Attack at their purest, as the pair continue to expand their sonic horizons with a beautifully sculpted selection of tracks.
Opening track Dead Editors sets the tone. Massive Attack emerge from the haze of the past half-decade to the sound of a distant radar pulse, signalling the return of Messrs Marshall and Del Naja proper. It doesn’t take long for the song to settle into the group’s characteristic groove. Upon this propulsive foundation, the scene is set for the first guest act of the EP Roots Manuva to drive home the action. Roots is non-plussed as he detects the “flashing Light Years” that pass before him, his vocals paranoid and enigmatic at every turn. The track wouldn’t sound out of place on Jamie XX’s 2015 record ‘In Colour’ – adding weight to the notion that Massive Attack remain as relevant as ever.
The rest of the EP progresses as you might suspect. ‘Ritual Spirit’, the title track, opens to shimmering guitars and heart swelling drums, before giving way to a schizophrenic beat that shifts and skips around the ear. Azekel’s guest appearance sounds like Sampha’s on the SBTRKT track ‘Hold On’, all soulful and rich. ‘Voodoo in my Blood’ features Mercury Music Prize winners Young Fathers, and exhibits Massive Attack at their taut and controlled best.
The EP’s closing track, ‘Take It There (feat. Tricky, 3D)’ brings things to a fitting conclusion. A natural bedfellow to Heligoland deep cut ‘Splitting the Atom’, the song nestles easily in amongst the best in the duo’s canon. Make no mistake. Massive Attack have returned in all their gloomy, despairing glory. Long live Trip-Hop.
Album Artwork: Virgin, EMI