100th Window

With 1991's Blue Lines, the collective known as Massive Attack virtually invented the kind of who-does-what? knob-twirling aggregation of sound makers, singers and programmers that makes finding producer's credits so difficult and makes "electronica," whatever that is, look so deceptively easy. In an era when other pop-electronic bands seem to settle for matching breathy female vocals with a click track, Massive Attack always deliver an exhilarating rampage of complex, menacing grooves. The group's sense of proportion is finer than those of its peers — rather than create soundscapes for soundscapes' sake, it demands that its atmospheres evoke real moods, real emotions, real engagement. The predominant flavor of 100th Window is Asian, making for a lyrical, relaxed mood, but the vocals address the listener with creepy directness, telling "you" again and again what you're up to. Gonglike bells herald the swirly, layered pop of "Special Cases"; actual funk threatens but never achieves release on "Butterfly Caught." "Future Proof" sounds like a tabla from outer space, as sinuous Middle Eastern noises shimmy against the thump of a drum program. On "Everywhen," a voice of indeterminate sex sings things such as "You think you know." The closer, "Antistar," draws South Asian threads together for a flowing, nervously beautiful, danceable collage.

100th Window includes a couple of drifty dullards — unforgivable for artists who usually set the bar so high — notably "Small Time Shot Away," which doodles and deedles like the wait-area music for an amusement park's space-coaster. Massive Attack fans won't be startled by anything on 100th Window, but at nine tracks, this may be the most accessible, freaky, futuristic electronic head-food album on the market.

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