Although Trip Hop pioneers Massive Attack have sporadically played shows in recent years, they haven’t released new music independently since the 2010 album Heligoland. 6 years have passed, but their music is still as relevant as it was in the bass boom of the 90s. Just one example of their commercial continuity is the fact that ‘Paradise Circus’ still soundtracked the new episodes of the BBC’s disturbing detective series Luther.
The ominous production of new EP Ritual Spirit does sound like it’s been festering away in Bristol’s underbelly for some time, but it lacks a traditional Trip Hop flavour as collaborators Azekel and Young Fathers make it contemporary. Opening track ‘Dead Editors’ featuring Roots Manuva doesn’t hide the fact that the last thing Massive Attack released was a limited vinyl single mixed by Burial. The track could well have been endorsed by the South London badboy with its rickety beats, sub-bass rumble and wail throughout which was probably produced by a rabid wild animal.
Title track ‘Ritual Spirit’ also emits a chilling tone as it is unveiled by a hypnotising guitar riff which is gradually layered with Azekel’s soothing falsetto and tropical percussion. The theme of hypnosis bleeds into ‘Voodoo In My Blood’ with Young Fathers, which continues to entice with melodic tribal chanting. Although Grant “Daddy G” Marshall was referring to race when he told The Guardian he intended to ‘bring the black back to Massive Attack’, this track brings black magic too. Closing track ‘Take It There’ is most quintessential of the group’s style, with 3D’s distinctive vocals and Tricky’s involvement.
Massive Attack have tried something different here; the bass drones rather than thumps as on tracks like ‘Angel’, but this could be a metaphor for the endurance of their legacy, no matter what they do.