Massive Attack’s ‘The Spoils’: First Listen

Trip-hop heavyweights Massive Attack recently released their latest single The Spoils, featuring atmospheric soundscapes which convey unease and wistfulness. If you can sit with those feelings, your ears are in for a treat.


Massive Attack


Earlier this year, Massive Attack released snippets of music through  Robert Del Naja’s music-mixing app phantom. Fleshed out, two of these songs have formed the band’s latest single The Spoils.

The title track ‘The Spoils’ has a lush, three-dimensional sound, comprised of  crystalline cinematic strings against a rounded thuddy baseline. After the first verse, this is joined by a funereal keyboard chords. Vocalist Hope Sandoval, who has previously worked with the band on their song ‘Paradise Circus’, wistfully sings about emotional distance and loss:

And I somehow slowly love you
And wanna keep you this way
Well, I somehow slowly know you
And wanna keep you away, away

The lyrics are straightforward, but the song maintains movement and emotion through Hope’s ethereal vocals and the string section which blooms into the chorus. Halfway through the song the dynamics change as the orchestral element drops away and we’re left with a sense of absence as Sandoval mournfully croons. The track’s final few minutes  purely instrumental, giving the listener space to reflect on the experience of the song.

‘Come Near Me’ is an eerie down-tempo offering featuring Ghostpoet on vocals. The track begins with an uneasy, radar-like intro with a pulsing rhythm. Ghostpoet’s vocals are a sliding monotone drawl which echo behind him. He appeals to the listener “We’ve been here before/ Don’t fear me”, yet continues with imagery of monsters under the bed, and breathing deep through a rising tide. The whole ambience of the track is claustrophobic and unsettling.

Ed Morris has directed a video ‘Come Near Me’ which is just as eerie. The clip features a woman systematically and robotically backing away from a man as the two maintain eye contact. She is oblivious to the world around her- traffic, people, changes in landscape- and ultimately the waves which drown her. Shots of the woman walking backwards are intercut with visceral closeups of her clenched fist, and stressed veins pulsing in her feet.  ‘Come Near Me’ ends with a pulsing baseline which flatlines into binaural-like white noise you might mistake for ringing in your ears. Either way, the experience of this song is one that will stay with you.