Until a few weeks back, the only constant in their whole discography was 3D. The first one to run from the toxic and confrontational environment was Tricky, who was a member of the band until the phenomenal “Protection” in spite of what Wikipedia says. For the “Mezzanine” sessions they included live instrumentation; Mushroom wasn’t satisfied with the changes in sound they were experimenting with and, in spite of the album’s success, was the second one to go.
From that point on they were flirting with the idea of working separately and publishing everything under the Massive Attack moniker, but what ended up happening was the conflict between Daddy G and 3D kept the former out of “100th Window” and only semi involved in “Heligoland”, even though he’s credited as a composer in all of those songs.
In 2013 their name returned to the spotlight with unorthodox plans and good news: 1.- They were writing songs with Tricky; 2.- They were releasing EPs instead of an album and 3.- The first one was going to be the work of 3D and the second one Daddy G’s, each working with their own team. Then they disappeared for 3 years, Tricky released his most underwhelming album to date — “Skilled Mechanics” — and when the world was not looking, “Take It There”’s fantastic videoclip starring John Hawkes appeared all over the Internet:
Artist: Massive Attack, Tricky & 3D
Song: “Take It There”
Director: Hiro Murai
Personally, I consider it the only exceptional song in the “Ritual Spirit” EP. The other three are collaborative efforts with the relatively new sensation Young Fathers, the legend Roots Manuva and singer Azekel. Nevertheless, the second single proved to be more popular, maybe fuelled by this terrifying videoclip in which Rosamund Pike — AKA the only wonderful thing about “Gone Girl” — contorts her body like you have no idea:
Artist: Massive Attack Ft. Young Fathers
Song: “Voodoo In My Blood”
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
To finish the cycle they released this one, with less budget and spectacle but starring Kate Moss, for the song that names the EP:
Artist: Massive Attack Ft. Azekel
Song: “Ritual Spirit”
Director: Medium / Robert Del Naja
Here, I expected them to disappear, to leave it like that for 2016. A couple months later, a new (massive) attack falls on our heads by the way of this hair-raising clip for “Come Near Me” starring Arta Dobroshi:
Artist: Massive Attack Ft. Ghostpoet
Song: “Come Near Me”
Director: Ed Morris
The song didn’t particularly impressed me at first, but it’s growing on me. It came with an announcement: a new EP, “The Spoils”, in fact with Daddy G at the helm, making this songs the first in their career without 3D’s involvement. And without skipping a beat, they released another visual piece starring none other than Cate Blanchett:
Artist: Massive Attack Ft. Hope Sandoval
Song: “The Spoils”
Director: John Hillcoat
My favorite of the lot, “The Spoils” marks their second collaboration with Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, who lent them her voice in the past for the stormy “Paradise Circus“.
And just like that we arrive at the present, the verdict: with two heads not interfering with each other and the presence of an old partner in crime, Massive Attack’s music sounds inspired. Their best in a decade. And 3D told Metro in 2013: “Me and Tricky wrote some new tracks in Paris last year, which haven’t seen the light of day yet — but that was fun. They should be on the next album”. Here’s hoping we’ll get more than “Take It There”.
Minds working independently, what a concept.
P.S. Recently this rumor I don’t necessarily agree with appeared all over the Internet, claiming 3D is the face behind Banksy. I’ve got my own theory, stated in spanish a couple of years ago, that says Banksy is a collective and not an individual. I do think, however, Massive Attack could have been involved, transporting those stencils and people to apply them. In any case, the plot thickens.