Pleasure And Pane
With Mushroom having left the band and Daddy G taking a sabbatical from the studio to concentrate on family life, it falls to Robert Del Naja (3D) to carry forward Massive Attack into the beyond, in collaboration with Neil Davidge, the producer of their third album Mezzanine (1998).
Without Mezzanine's layers of guitar, which left some Massive Attack lovers narrowing their eyes doubtfully, 100 Windows seems at first subdued. Much as shapes only gradually reveal themselves in an initially pitch black room, so it is with this album, which takes a few listens to become accustomed to. The devil is in the detail, nestled deep in the layered backdrop.
"Future Proof", the opener, seems like generic Massive Attack, with its pulsing, see-saw riff and velveteen ambience, before abstract muezzin shapes hove into your face like bats. "Everywhen" features regular MA vocalist Horace Andy, but there's something disquietingly irregular about the orbit he's in here.
There were always ominous overtones to Massive Attack, but 100 Windows is especially stark, inculcating the sort of trepidation that comes with staring at the night sky for too long, or staying up too late discussing Noam Chomsky.
There's a radioactive air about the album which, coupled with the use of Eastern, Arabic strings, brings to musical life a palpable sense of post-September 11 tension. 3D himself admits that "the state of the world has rubbed off on the record".
Sinéad O'Connor's contributions certainly don't detract from this raw sensitivity to the world. Her voice sounds small and cracked nowadays, as if from belting out "Nothing Compares 2U" once too often, but it's the more affectingly vulnerable for that. "Special Cases" and, especially, "A Prayer For England", a plea against child abuse, do what she does best—put you on the spot emotionally.
3D's own vocal contributions are similarly, disturbingly intimate, especially "Small Time Shot Away", while the full force of the album dawns on you like the earth from the moon with the glorious "Antistar".
Massive Attack take their time, and this album takes time, too. But it takes you there.
Rating: 4 / 10