100th Window is the fourth studio album from the Bristol-based trip-hop group Massive Attack. Of the band's original core trio, the album only features Robert Del Naja. Andrew Vowles departed shortly after the release of Mezzanine, and Grant Marshall refused to participate in the making of the record.
Released in February 2003, 100th Window was written and produced by Del Naja and Neil Davidge, and features vocals from Horace Andy and Sinéad O'Connor, as well as an imperceptible appearance by Damon Albarn. It is the first album by the band that made no use of samples, and contains none of the jazz or jazz fusion stylings of the Blue Lines or Protection recordings.
Work on the album started in early 2000 at the Christchurch Studios in Clifton, Bristol. Massive Attack recruited Lupine Howl (a band made up of ex-members of Spiritualized) for the new album. In a November 2001 interview, Lupine Howl's lead singer Sean Cook described the sessions as "very experimental ... that essentially consisted of kinda minimal loops and noises that were fed to our head phones from the computer up in the control room. Then we would have this sort of extended jam session playing along to them and they would do various things to do the loops. Sometimes they would drop out the loop, sometimes they would start processing it with effects and delays and stuff like that, to try and make it change in various ways and see what that would do in terms of our playing. They also had a strobe light in the live room, which they controlled from the control room. They would kind of put that on and speed it up to dictate the intensity and try to affect the way we played with the lighting. It was a really good laugh; we got some good stuff. I mean, hours and hours of stuff, which they have taken back and cut up and arranged and done their things to."
In a 17 July 2002 posting to Massive Attack's forums Del Naja wrote that over the course of time, the band had become "very unhappy with the shapes being formed", and that by the beginning of 2002 they had discarded most of the material that was written up to that point. As a result, Lupine Howl is not credited with any contributions to the final album. However, one song from those sessions, "Nature of Threat", was later made available for download on Massive Attack's website.
Oh dear. Regrettably, the latest offering from the new slim line Massive Attack falls way short of the spurious hype and their previous musical triumphs. The sense of event that the publicists like to attach to the release of each their albums has boiled down to little more than a giant poster campaign. With Mushroom out of the picture and Daddy G away on parent sabbatical, Robert Del Naja aka 3D is now the sole member ofa group which is both dwindling in numbers and, unfortunately, artistic flair. Musically the 'Attack' seem to be suffering a severe case of middle-age spread.
Not content with steering the sound east with swathes of Arabian strings and Saharanambience they (or should that be he?) have employed Sinead O'Connor as guest vocals not once but thrice. Why? Yes, she can warble away in her melancholic fashion but the positioning of the nutty priestess smacks of a lack of adventure or risk taking.
Massive Attack used to be adept at bringing lesser known vocalists in to the mainstream and making them shine. Miss O'Connor may need the work but listening to her pine for the slaughtered children on the hugely self indulgent "A Prayer For England" is tiresome whilst the debut single "Special Cases" does little to redeem these felonies.
Production-wise 100th Window is solid and occasionally sublime. The drum/bass relationships are all expertly executed and the tracks are mixed beautifully, "Butterfly Caught" in particular. But that means jack when you feel nothing whilst waiting for the record to play out. There simply aren't enough hooks, melodies or songs here to make this memorable.
The prior outing Mezzanine had a brooding, cinematic edge that did much to fire the imagination, Protection had the emotive title track, "Karmacoma" and "Weather Storm" amongst its finery. And Blue Lines was... well... Blue Lines. This takes itself so seriously you can feel the furrows of worry. Not content with giving over eight minutes to the desert opus and closing track "Antistar" the track then proceeds to bleep on for another eight minutes doing absolutely chuff all.
This is lazy music making, to be avoided at all costs. User Comments