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100th Window - Massive Attack

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Genre: Dance & Electronic - Electronica / Artist: Massive Attack / Audio CD released 2003-03-03 at Virgin Records Ltd UK

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      27.02.2003 00:06
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      Bristol. I say Bristol is not particularly well known for its exciting exports. Infact, as I sit here, I can only think about a half a dozen. And they aren’t very exciting either. Let me summarise on these before I move on. Bristols, a word describing a ladies front bits, derived from the belief that the women in Bristol were sayed to be better endowed than other ports in the country and Casualty, a slightly cheesy hospital drama that is beginning to have too many bumpkinified Bristol actors in it. Hmmm. That’s about where my list ends actually, but I did miss out one fairly important thing there. Trip-Hop. There are a few bands which can be accredited with “inventing” the genre Trip Hop. Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky are probably the artists you are most likely to have heard of, though by no means the limit Trip Hop itself seems to be a combination of a wide variety of styles, foremost it is electronica. Whilst you may hear softly played guitars and gentle drum brushes the staple of the sound is provided by synth and vox, both original composition and sampling. The music is chiefly an amalgamation of washed out bass beats and beautiful, breathless female vocals accompanied by undulating wave form baritone synth sounds. You’ll encounter hip hop, ambient and trance-like sounds. Music is often sensual, brooding, deep and dark. Trip Hop is chiefly about sound creating atmosphere. A ‘morphic’ sound provides atmosphere and emotion. The term was coined way back in the mid nineties, although the music had been kicking around for several years before that, such artists as Ninja Tune, Cup of Tea and finally and perhaps most importantly for this op a band with the members Wild Style, Grant Marsh (aka Daddy G), Robert Del Naja (3D). Andrew Vowles (Mushroom), Nellee Hooper, Milo Johnson and Claude "Willie Wee" Williams formed the Bristol hip-hop collective The Wild Bunch After sever al successful years bringing the music scene in Bristol forward The Wild Bunch split and three key members went on to form Massive Attack; 3D, Mushroom, Daddy G. Finally Horace Andy became an important member that features predominantly throughout the albums. Massive Attack released their first trademark track way back in 1990. The single Daydreaming heralded much of the style that is commonly associated to Massive Attack, heady vibes accompanied by sampled bites, breathy sounds and a roving BPM. Since that time Massive Attack have released 4 albums, albums that have developed the style and seen members come and go, some to reappear as guests (Tricky) or producers (Nellee Hooper). After a considerable gap, their last album, Mezzanine, was released in 1998, 100th Window gained its release on the 10th February 2003. Five years later. Despite having read criticism that 100th Window isn’t Mezzanine (often considered their best work and a highly recommended listen) 100th window does continue in the MA tradition but also strives to move away from the sounds that were so popular on the album before. Without straying from the urban sound and rhetoric on modern England, war, love and drugs being popular themes, the album takes us on something of a journey as each of the tracks ebbs and flows into the next. Importantly Massive Attack employ the use of another female songstress, Sinead O’Connor. Her dulcet Irish tones provide the perfect complement to the sounds that Massive Attack create. Sinead picks up the Trip Hop vibe very well and provides us with a warm yet haunting and light yet brooding approach that is a far cry from her better known work. She effortless compares to the contemporaries of the genre in Beth Gibbons (Portishead) and Martina Topley-Bird (Tricky.) Sineads voice also provides the perfect counterpoint to the gravely sounds that 3D provides. She can be heard in tracks 2, 4 and 6. I’m not a big fan of brea king down each track into its individuality to define it, certainly in 100th Window this would probably prove quite pointless as the tracks do, by and large, have a particularly strong theme, Trip Hop. If you’ve been listening your imagination should by now have painted a picture of the kind of music I’m talking about but I’ll provide a short synopsis of the story. The title 100th Window is a metaphor pulled from the title of a book, the idea of which explores the theory that no matter how careful you are, or how much security you employ, there will always be a window open that will allow people to know everything about you. To quote 3D “It is the idea that no man is an island - The window to the soul etc - There is always a way in and a way back out of your head.” Perhaps this gives you an idea of the mind set of the group. Let me take you on a journey, Future Proof is a melodic track that starts out reminiscent of Orbital, until the faint jangling of guitars encroaches and becomes accompanied by a galloping beat until 3D begins to sing a track. His voice soft, smooth and heavily synthesised provides a hypnotic quality. Hard to believe that the chief message in the words is about a pipe smoker. What Your Soul Sings isn’t my favourite track on the album solely because it never particularly moves along, that isn’t to say it isn’t beautiful. The opens with a breathy constant note that is joined by a sweeping wind sound and reverse sounding drum beats. A guitar and glock enter into the sound to begin providing eclectiveness and soon Sinead begins singing. Whilst the melody is spell binding the track seems to do a few loops, at nearly seven minutes long it just gets a bit tedious. Everywhen opens with a sultry melodic piano chord emphasised by a smooth bass line and Horace Andy sings with a voice that is indescribably soft. Along with the music his voice breaks in to minor ke ys to juxtapose the happy feelings with a more blue sound. Special Cases opens with the sound of cowbells, soon introduced is a wailing melancholy sound the reminds you of trains, or possibly a distant scream. Turns out this is a string synth that etches the melody of the track. All the while in the background a three note bass line, resonates and vaguely echoes Butterfly Caught opens with the sorts of sounds you’d hear on a quiet Sunday morning. Stick your head out the window and listen to the wind chime jangle in the breeze. Somewhere in the distance someone practices switching between two notes on his saxophone. Electronica of the highest order we move in to 808 and 909 sounding drum loops. Trip hop that grabs you, spins the mind and introduces arabesque strings that weave a belly dance to the end. A Prayer For England provides us with a similar backing sound to Butterfly Caught for some of the continuity I was talking about. Sineads voice is put into great effect and she provides passion to a short lyric that sings over a looping guitar riff. Small Time Shot Away opens with the sound of a kid depressing the keys on his old Bontempi keyboard, while a more skilled musician tinkers with tinder bells and eventually pulls in the melodic back ground bass tones. We begin the soothing slip toward the end of the album Name Taken wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dido album or Morcheeba album. The most constructed of the tracks it again goes for a hypnotic quality and Horace Andy once again provides his fe-male tones in a dry and almost hoarse way that enchant. Anti-Star pretends to be a 20 minute song but infact isn’t. What it is is two tracks, one with rhythm melody and trancing rhythms that seem to pull in much of the earlier tracks to provide yet another eclectic collaboration. The track then stops dead for almost a minute before it kicks in with nothing more than a modulating bass line that fad es in with increasing volume. I’m not sure what it says, (not vocally rather metaphorically) but its very erm.. soothing. At just over 74 minutes long I thought the album was perfectly timed to accompany those moments spent listening to music when you are in need of chill, ready to shut your eyes or soothe away stress in the bath or talking in softened tones to your mate (friend or partner). This must be what Massive Attack have aimed for and hit with. If you aren’t sure you’d like this, or like this and want something else then I’d recommend Portishead – Dummy Massive Attack – Mezzanine Tricky – Maxinquay Morcheeba – Big Calm (though it’s a bit more Trip Pop than hop!) Orbital and possibly even Enigma likers might find something to like here too. Though, as ever, not everyone is going to like it. Tracklist 1 Future Proof 2 What Your Soul Sings 3 Everywhen 4 Special Cases 5 Butterfly Caught 6 A Prayer For England 7 Small Time Shot Away 8 Name Taken 9 Antistar

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        06.02.2003 03:14
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        Massive attack return after a 5 year break and only one member (3D). Pretty much the creative genius to begin with- 3D’s 100th Window is a triumph. It may lack the consistency of Mezzanine (unusual choice for single Special Cases is one of their weakest coming across as self parody) but has its fair share of tracks, like Mezzanine, that sound absolutely brilliant from the start (Small Time Shot Away, What Your Soul Sings, Future Proof, Anti Star) as well as the tracks that come across as a little indulgent at first (Everywhen, Butterfly Caught, Name Taken) but grow richer with every listen. Fans of Massive Attack (who mostly consider Mezzanine their best work and an improvement on the sample heavy Blue Lines and the atrociously bland, coffee table antics of Protection) should be pretty happy with 100th Window. It’s a little less organic, with live guitars only gracing a few tracks this time round. There is also a very slight hint of Boards of Canada at work here (not a bad thing), and this is pretty much a timeless dance record (whereas Mezzanine was more rock orientated). The intrigue and atmosphere is still very much their, only more so- if anything 100th window works even more on the senses, and for pretty much the duration of this album (the whole CD- 76 mins) you will feel as though your on another planet. 3D has also adapted a new vocal style, he attempts to sing, coming across as a restrained Ian Brown in his greater moments. This is the side of Massive Attack that we always wanted to see- a combination of their best moments with the spaced out, hypnotic, epic grandeur of Group Four (a Mezzanine highlight) that was only hinted at before- coming pretty much full circle this time round (average running time for tracks here is roughly 7-8 mins). 100th Window is undeniably brilliant music from an undeniably great band that believe in taking their listeners on a musical journey rather than selling copious amounts of records and appearing on the radio every 5 mins alongside Coldplay.

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      • Product Details

        Disc #1 Tracklisting
        1 Future Proof
        2 What Your Soul Sings
        3 Everywhen
        4 Special Cases
        5 Butterfly Caught
        6 A Prayer For England
        7 Small Time Shot Away
        8 Name Taken
        9 Antista