ARTIST: MASSIVE ATTACK+ ALBUM: The Spoils/Come Near Me (Single) + LABEL: Virgin/EMI + RELEASED: JUL 29, 2016
In January, The Void Report reviewed Massive Attack’s Ritual Spirit EP in what turned into our most widely read review, ever. Following up on that, it seems appropriate to review their second release of the year, the “The Spoils/Come Near Me” single. When Ritual Spirit was released, the press release stated there would be another EP and a full-length LP before years end. There’s no indication of whether this 2-song release is the aforementioned “EP” or a taste of what’s to come. Like Ritual Spirit, this single first debuted on the bands Fantom smartphone app. Through the Fantom app there also appears a track “Dear Friend” that perhaps, along with these tracks (and maybe another?) would comprise the previously promised EP. I don’t love these two songs, but Ritual Spirit was a great collection of songs and if we do, in fact, get a full-length, this will go down as a watershed year in Massive Attack history. Where Ritual Spirit was produced by Robert Del Naja and collaborator Euan Dickinson, these songs were produced by Daddy G and collaborator Stew Jackson. Presumably, the forthcoming full-length album is more of a collaboration between Daddy G and Del Naja, but for now we’ll have to wait and see.
The first track, “The Spoils” features the always enchanting vocals of Hope Sandoval (best known for her work with Mazzy Star), who last collaborated with Massive Attack on 2010’s Heligoland LP. The track is a minimal, slow burning song featuring waves of strings, a drum beat, and Sandoval’s vocals. At first blush, it sounds like something that goes back to Portishead’s Dummy. I imagine this song is perfect for making out or general background music. In my opinion, nothing really interesting happens in this song. Sandoval’s voice sounds great, but the music is boring. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s certainly not “Paradise Circus” (Sandoval’s wonderful song on Heligoland), and it doesn’t have any particular standout moment.
The second song, “Come Near Me,” features vocals from the UK’s Ghostpoet, who does sort of a Tricky thing, it’s a lazy, haunting, smoked-out mumble-rap. His voice sounds cool, but like the Sandoval track, “Come Near Me” is also minimal in instrumentation. A slow, simple drum machine, a repetitive synth line, a few flourishes of this and that that seem to serve as merely a template for the vocalist, rather than a finely crafted song in and of itself.
I would sum up these two songs as uneventful. They’re not bad songs, they’re well produced and fragments of either song would work well in a soundtrack setting. Perhaps it’s because I was such a fan of Ritual Spirit, but these tracks just don’t do it for me. Make up a playlist including these and the four songs on Ritual Spirit and I think they would work better. If you’re a Massive Attack fan, sure drop a couple of bucks on these two songs. They’re fine.
– J. Kevin Lynch