Massive Attack are widely referred to as the founders of the early ’90s U.K. wave of music known as Trip-Hop. They seem to fuse together different aspects of several genres of music, including House, Electronic, Dance, Hip-Hop and even Progressive and Experimental Rock. The truly unique aspect of Massive Attack is that they are able to gel all these aspects into a fusion in which these become one without the loss of any listening pleasure due to extreme experimentation.
The efforts of Heligoland are shared between the duo who make up Massive Attack and six other artists who are featured throughout the album. And whilst so many contributing artists can often lead to several challenges, Heligoland never seems to stray too far from the original tone and at the same time doesn’t become repetitive.
Heligoland lends itself to the eerier side of music which comes across especially in songs like “Rush Minute,” “Atlas Air” and “Paradise Circus,” which featured in the soundtracks of the TV series Misfits, Luther, True Blood and Gossip Girl. The album also relies on the heavy presence of a main melody specifically in “Psyche,” in which a sampled picked guitar sound is heard throughout the entire song. However, several changes are made to the melody throughout the song, ranging from volume change to an increase of a reverb effect which results in different atmospheres being introduced throughout the song without changing the notes played. This is a very creative and yet simple production element which allows the music to create a climax or even suspense without relying on lyrics or other instruments.
As with most electronic music, the bass and drum sounds are very important and act as the foundation of the song. Heligoland is no exception to the rule, even in the track “Paradise Circus,” where these aspects are very simple. But it’s the simplicity of the bass and drum sounds that makes the song so noticeably unique. The effect of the music, topped with vocals done by Hope Sandoval make this song haunting and is possibly the most memorable track on the album.
Where this style of music could easily turn to a self-indulgent tangent of the artists, it is still captivating and enjoyable throughout. I’d advise listening to this album not expecting a fusion of multiple genres and especially not expecting one genre to dominate because this album simply cannot be classified as any genre other than Trip-Hop and that is what I feel makes this album so unique.
This album has introduced creativity and complete originality into a music industry where both are lacking. And saying that I would highly recommend giving Heligoland a listen.