Review: Massive Attack’s Bold Political Statement In Audio-Visual Project ‘EUTOPIA’

Massive Attack | EUTOPIA EP (Audio-Visual) | Self Released

“We did not ask if he had seen any monsters, for monsters have ceased to be news. There is never any shortage of horrible creatures who prey on human beings, snatch away their food, or devour whole populations; but examples of wise social planning are not so easy to find…”

“No living creature is naturally greedy, except from fear of want – or in the case of human beings, from vanity, the notion that you’re better than people if you can display more superfluous property than they can.”

“…it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming first a thief, and then a corpse.”

Utopia (1514)
Sir Thomas More

When it comes to the iconic multi-faceted English duo Massive Attack, the electronic pioneers have never been afraid to tackle what many people may dub ‘political’ or ‘controversial’ topics.

The artists have consistently, aside from their outstanding production and musical talents (that have propelled them into the spotlight time and time again) proven their profound dedication and ferocious passion when it comes to activist endeavours.

Massive Attack have been exceptionally vocal for decades when it comes to issues such as the climate crisis, human rights violations and overall injustice across the globe. For example: in 2019 Massive Attack co-founder Robert Del Naja, who has been an outstanding and unstoppable activist throughout the years, wrote an op-ed for The Guardian regarding the impact of the music industry on carbon emissions. Massive Attack commissioned the renowned Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in order to map this research.

With the release of a new audio-visual EP titled EUTOPIA written while in lockdown: Massive Attack have collaborated with American experimental soul band Algiers, Scottish band Young Fathers and the multi-talented American musician and poet Saul Williams

Lockdown exposed the best aspects and worst flaws of humanity. That period of uncertainty and anxiety forced us to meditate on the obvious need to change the damaging systems we live by.  By working with three experts, we’ve created a sonic and visual dialogue around these global, structural issues; taking the form of climate emergency, tax haven extraction and Universal Basic Income.

Massive Attack

Taking inspiration from Sir Thomas More, who coined the term ‘Utopia’ in 1514, along with his subsequent exploration of the idea as to whether the possibility of a true Utopia is possible: the EP is more so an incredible political piece of artwork, which also contains spoken word information from three expert scholars – with their names doubling as the track names – specifically tackling issues such as the climate crisis, tax haven extraction, inequality and Universal Basic Income.

With the platform Massive Attack have, along with their collaborators and the skill behind the music they create, the inclusion of vital information within an audio-visual EP of original music is an exceptionally intriguing approach for the music industry in general, and sends a bold message in hope of informing the public of the issues we need to be focusing on. The political messages with each track and accompanying video speaks for themselves. If only we could blast them from the rooftops.

In their collaboration with Algiers, the track titled ‘CHRISTIANA‘ the light, yet swift percussive introduction accompanies a singular beat that immediately creates an aura of anxiety: with the beat sounding quite rightfully like an alarm, as the visuals of skulls begin to pulse. With the introduction of Christiana’s voice and information: a heavy, opaque beat pulses like a strained heartbeat, adding emphasis to her words without overpowering them, as layers of electronic textures explore the atmospheric drive that runs throughout the track. The beat slows, ritualistically pounding powerfully with high-pitched vocal harmonies and highly distorted, glitching interludes of focused chaos, synthesizer drones and vocal shouts crafting an incredibly impactful tone.

In ‘GABRIEL‘ – a track in collaboration with rapper, musician and poet Saul Williams, the exceptionally nervous tone is intricately woven into a highly atmospheric soundscape: a very real sense of dread is crafted by the artists, as if formed from the topography of the map in the visuals, a world crafted by dollar bills. This emphasises the urgency of the information provided by Gabriel’s voice, as extraterrestrial chimes gradually build a feeling of uneasiness, segueing into rapid percussion and a confident, powerful beat. As the extraterrestrial chimes ring throughout the track, alien synths groan with uneasiness creates a tone that comes across malevolent in nature. William’s vocals gleam with a soulful nature even amongst the frantic, scrambling percussion.

GUY‘ is Massive Attack’s collaboration with Young Fathers: an ominous ambience greets us before Guy begins to speak of inequality – the visuals depicting a psychedelic transformation of all different types of human beings into one another. Passionate, melancholic keys make their entry, with seemingly pleading vocals crying out: the lyrics clearly empathetic in their tone, denouncing the pain of others. Deeply introspective electronic timbres craft a melancholia glittering with crystalline melodious harmonies, singing amongst percussive claps and layered vocals. The soundscape is gradually built one layer at a time, with each timbre progressing into a sound larger and more detailed than before. The atmosphere that has been captured in the track truly is one of gleaming, loving empathy, which is both beautiful and painful considering the subject matter.

For more information follow Massive Attack on Twitter

Feature Image: Massive Attack by Warren Du Preez & Nick Thornton Jones

Review by Jenna Dreisenstock

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