Massive Attack Biography
Massive Attack's style is often thought of as being experimental. The duo have talked of their ethos as being to have a very different creative approach to each album and to "avoid the obvious". Some of their most noted songs have been without choruses and have featured dramatically atmospheric dynamics, conveyed through either epic distorted guitar crescendos, lavish orchestral arrangements (like swelling, sustained strings or flourishes of grand piano) or prominent, looped/shifting basslines, often underpinned by high and exacting production values, involving sometimes painstaking digital editing and mixing. The pace of their music has often been slower than prevalent British dance music at the time. These and other psychedelic, soundtrack-like and DJist sonic techniques, formed a much-emulated style journalists began to dub "trip hop" from the mid-nineties onwards, though in an interview in 2006, G said, "'We used to hate that terminology [trip-hop] so bad,' (laughs) 'You know, as far we were concerned, Massive Attack music was unique, so to put it in a box was to pigeonhole it and to say, "Right, we know where you guys are coming from."'"
Their debut album, Blue Lines (1991), was co-produced by Jonny Dollar and Cameron McVey, who also became their first manager. Geoff Barrow, who went on to form Portishead, was a tea-boy and tape operator at Bristol's Coach House studio when the album was recorded. McVey (credited at the time as 'Booga Bear') and his wife, Neneh Cherry provided crucial financial support and in-kind help to the early careers of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky during this period, even paying regular wages to them through their Cherry Bear Organisation. Massive Attack went on to critical acclaim for their ever-changing line-up of distinctive, often 'ethereal' or whispery guest vocalists, interspersed with Del Naja and Marshall's (initially Tricky's) own, similarly hushed, sprechgesang stylings, on top of, what became regarded as, quintessentially British, creative sampling production; a trademark sound that fused down-tempo hip hop, soul, reggae and other eclectic references, musical and lyrical.
With the coffee-table chill-out of Protection in 1994, a rather heavier, guitar-upgraded Mezzanine in 1998, and then the denser, more clinical soundscaping of Robert Del Naja's essentially solo 100th Window in 2003, Massive's overall sound grew persistently more experimental and melancholy, having a greater degree of gothic post-punk texture and moodily cinematic electronica integrated into it. The trio became known for often not being able to easily get along with one another and working increasingly separately. Andrew Vowles, aka Mushroom, reluctantly and acrimoniously left Massive Attack altogether in late 1999, at the behest of his colleagues. Daddy G had also effectively left by 2001, but returned to a studio role with greater commitment in 2005, having joined the touring line-up of 2003/4, though he did not produce "Live With Me", with Terry Callier, the one new track from [Disc 1 of] 2006's Collected. A record label, Melankolic, was started back in 1995 (as an imprint of Virgin [EMI]), but had completely folded by 2003. Over the decades, the Bristol collective have collaborated with Neneh Cherry, Madonna, David Bowie, Mos Def and Sinéad O'Connor amongst many others. Roots reggae veteran, Horace Andy has featured on all of their studio LP's, each one being slower to emerge than the last by taking an increasingly long number of years to be finished.
Currently, producer Neil Davidge and Massive Attack spend time in Del Naja and Davidge's 100 Suns studio, in Bristol, final-mixing their, as yet untitled, long-awaited, fifth studio album (a process which has involved renowned mix engineer, Mark "Spike" Stent). Davidge is steering the project towards mastering and completion as soon as possible.
In the meantime a new EP, Splitting The Atom, has leaked and was released for sale on October 5. It previews the still untitled, "LP5". A tour of UK and European dates is underway. Other tracks are to be uploaded to the duo's revamped website from time to time in the lead up to the much-postponed new album's release.