While Portishead incubates quietly, Massive Attack continues to thumb its nose at the grand expectations that have loomed over them since their 1991 masterpiece, Blue Lines. Helmed by Robert Del Naja, the group’s sole original member, 100th Window takes another giant step away from the soulful trip-hop the Bristol natives spearheaded over a decade ago. Sinead O’Connor lends some spirituality—if not actual soul—on three tracks, including “What Your Soul Sings,” a gorgeous paean to self-love and trip-hop’s answer to her dub-infused meditation “The Healing Room.” “Special Cases” and “A Prayer for England,” however, find the singer confined by the limitations of Del Naja’s computer-spun melodies. In fact, much of the album trades trip-hop soul for D.I.Y.-style electronica similar to Björk’s Vespertine (check the locust-like pitter-patter percussion of “Future Proof”) and anything by Lee Norris’s Metamatics or Norken. 100th Window even seems to take a page from Radiohead on the excruciatingly slothy “Name Taken.” Massive Attack hits close to home on the sinister, string-laden “Butterfly Caught” and the Asian-flavored finale, “Antistar,” which features the album’s sole hook—courtesy of a seductive guitar line—and pumps out a hypnotic drone for nearly 20 minutes.
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