Massive Attack 

100th Window (Virgin)

100th Window is only Massive Attack's fourth album in 12 years, but each one has maintained a level of quality control that this group's contemporaries would do well to emulate. Though classified as pioneers of Bristol, England's trip-hop movement, Massive Attack progressed way beyond such narrow strictures on 1998's dark, electronic-rock masterpiece Mezzanine. On the long-awaited follow-up, 3D and company (mainly Mezzanine co-producer Neil Davidge, minus founding member Daddy Gee) move even further away from trip-hop's signifiers; this album recalls the spacious psychedelic tone poems of latter-day Radiohead and Sigur Rós more than it does Portishead.

The disc's first two tracks, "Future Proof" and "What Your Soul Sings," evoke the profound unease and exposed-nerve emotiveness of Kid A and Amnesiac. Chilled yet expansive, these numbers paradoxically morph psych rock into blissed-out blues. Sinéad O'Connor sings on the latter, and she and reggae fixture Horace Andy do some of their finest vocal work on two more cuts each. But the real treat is the string orchestration that adorns several songs, waxing Middle Eastern like Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" on downers. And while 100th Window's prevailing hue is midnight blue and its tempo slow as a walk to the electric chair, the artistry of Massive Attack's arrangements and textural soundscaping makes the album as uplifting as a Prozac-and-Red-Bull cocktail.

More by Dave Segal


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