100th Window

This is a (p)review of Massive Attack’s 100th Window.
I admit it, this is an advance leak. I have been on pins and needles since I started listening to Massive Attack (post-Mezzanine) for a new album, and when I saw this get leaked, I had to give it a listen, wondering where the band would go next. After starting with the very soft-break oriented trip hop with Blue Lines, then moving to the very reggae influenced Protection, and then the commercially-successful Mezzanine…where would Bristol take us to next?
The answer? I’d call it an evolution off of Mezzanine. Essentially, the overly dark bass lines from Mezz (Risingson, Inertia Creep, Group Four) have been left behind. Now you have more complex rhythms, and higher-register electronic instruments. You have a movement away from the trip-hop style rapping that was big on Blue Lines and Mezzanine, and more ambient-ish melodic vocals from Protection. There are exceptions to this (Special Cases takes us back pretty close to Mezzanine), but everything definitely feels different.
At times, I’m reminded of William Orbit’s Pieces In A Modern Style (the intro to Future Proof), at others, some of the less dense stuff from Aphex Twin’s ambient albums (Smalltime Shot Away). What’s most important, I guess, is that there hasn’t been a song off of here that I haven’t liked. My lowest rating is a 68/100, which considering that I tend to average a 40/100 with all my music, is extremely good.
If there’s a downfall, it’s that the tracks do mush together a bit, because there really aren’t any hooks as have been heard in other albums (Blue Lines and Karmacoma both hooked me like a stringfish; everyone knows the bassline from Angel because it’s been in eleventy billion commercials). No lyrics stick out, no melodies come above the rest…
…but frankly, the album is so refreshing, so different from what the downtempo and trip-hop scenes have consisted of for the past few years (everyone trying to sound like Theivery Corporation or, well, Massive Attack), it’s more than welcome on my playlist.
And yes, I’ll be picking this up on release day.