There’s the kind of music that instantly draws one in. Immediately, you’re an uberfan who plays the album on repeat until a roommate threatens to annihilate your sound system. Then there’s music that sneaks up on you. You only snap out of the glazed-eye trance it put you in as the album ends, leaving you wondering where the music went. The latter description perfectly fits my reaction to Massive Attack’s fifth album, 100th Window.
Taking almost four years to complete, 100th Window is almost a completely solo effort by Robert Del Naja (“3D”) after rapper Grant Marshall (“Daddy G”) and Adrian “Mushroom” Vowles took respective sabbaticals. Mezzanine rocketed Massive Attack to success 1998, after which they followed up with a string of remixes and collaborations, most notably with Mos Def on the single “I Against I.”
On their most recent effort, though, trip hop origins seem to fade into a darker yet still sensual evocation of dreamy landscapes. The songs, averaging seven minutes, pull one into a soothing yet sneakily sinister world with lyrics as in “Special Cases”: “Take a look around the world/ You see such mad things happening.”
Massive Attack has become particularly known for female vocalists like Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser and Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn. This time, Sinead O’Connor lends her haunting voice to such songs as “A Prayer for England” and “Special Cases.”
Admittedly, I was a bit weary at first of the album’s intense yet repetitive nature. Before I knew it, though, I was sucked into the melodic vortex that is 100th Window. Though it might take some breaking in, Massive Attack remains potently addictive.