Thursday, January 28, 2016

Massive Attack - Ritual Spirit Review

One of the world’s most famed Trip-Hop groups just won’t go away. Massive Attack, creators of about half the influences you’ve seen in the genre over the past two decades, have continued to modernize their sound through evasive measures rather than die out with the withering fad of the genre they fostered. That’s not to say their latest records aren’t without their faults, there’s many, just that with such gargantuan statues with the likes of Blue Lines and Mezzanine looming overhead it’s easy to see why new age Massive Attack doesn’t match up. Released with little to no fanfare as far as I’m concerned, this four track EP entitled Ritual Spirit may be their most reserved in terms of attracting attention. Sure, a mysterious app disguising the tracks through remixes accompanied the songs originally, but a formal release soon followed losing traction of any sort of mystic. And yet, even the cover is off-putting in its immediate proclamation of uneasiness. To victims lured in the first sounds off Ritual Spirit are entirely indicative of that cover. To long time Massive Attack lovers, it’s a breath of fresh air, as a wave of nostalgia rides over ‘Dead Editors’’ first few seconds.

Now there’s no daunting edifices to work through here, with no track escaping the five minute threshold, but at their heart they feel massive. The bass pulsating through ‘Dead Editors’ constantly vibrates and disrupts the natural flow, as Jungle rhythms, a pinnacle in Massive Attack’s earlier music, blasts through the system as the song quickly turns into a lurching Hip-Hop track thanks to Roots Manuva’s presence. There’s a reliable amount of variety within this beat, bounces around Manuva’s rapping and intersecting him with instrumental interludes that force Breakbeat upon the listener. As far as Massive Attack production in the 21st century goes, this is where they excel. Bombastic beats that sound both primitive and futuristic. That’s where ‘Ritual Spirit’ slips up a bit. It doesn’t compete with the larger monoliths here in terms of style, and isn’t quiet enough to maintain intrigue, simply dejecting itself to being a forgotten song that follows script. It’s good, just not in comparison to the other three here which come out guns blazing. It does seem as if the EP toys with perception throughout, with ‘Dead Editors’ and ‘Voodoo In My Blood’ being bulging companion pieces, as ‘Ritual Spirit’ and ‘Take It There’ are the same but more reserved.

Thankfully for fans of UK Trip-Hop though that last track doesn’t falter like its counterpart. ‘Take It There’ features Tricky, another seminal figurehead in the 90’s UK scene who was once a member of Massive Attack. Being that this is his first time working with the group since 1994’s Protection, this is kinda a big deal. And by all accounts, it’s as if he’s never left despite decades of music working between the trio. In the most Massive Attack-y song here, ‘Take It There’ weaves around large drums and deathly pianos, like a more in your face Portishead. The vocals and lyrics are demeaning and grimy, that is, before the chorus arrives and all three come together under a simple Shoegaze guitar riff. This passive slowly builds in density, bearing with it an overwhelming cacophony of sounds. Then it all dissipates for a few meandering seconds before the song cuts off, all in typical Massive Attack fashion. All that’s left is ‘Voodoo In My Blood,’ with assistance from up-and-comers Young Fathers. It’s a ferocious Jungle anthem that uses a thumping Drum N’ Bass to drive increasing fervor until it reaches a bottleneck. The production on it reaches excellence in terms of its march onwards, heightening all the elements, including the vocals, whilst only adding rarely. That concludes Massive Attack’s best work in years, an exhaustive four tracks packed to the punch in vigor.

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