Massive Attack emerges from the darkness with an epic EP

It’s been five long years since we heard anything from Massive Attack, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. A new four-track EP, Ritual Spirit, arrived this week, featuring collaborations with Tricky, Young Fathers, Roots Manuva, and Azekel.

Tricky’s track, Take It There, turned up on YouTube, a track produced by one half of the Bristol duo, 3D (aka Robert Del Naja), and a clip directed by Japanese Hiro Murai, whom Australian music lovers might remember for his work creating Chet Faker’s clip for Gold, the one featuring a trio of roller-skating babes and faker himself in a car wreck, which they nonchalantly roll past.

Here’s the Massive Attack clip, and it’s quite mesmerising, as is often the case with Murai’s work.

Musically, Take It There features all the hallmarks of classic Massive Attack — hypnotic beats, dark lyrics delivered via menacing whispers — but the guitar and piano work is also superb. It’s more reminiscent of the collection of tunes on Mezzanine than those on Protection, which was the last album Tricky featured on. The tension is high, and the quality exactly what you’d expect.

As for the other tracks, again they’re undeniably the creations of Massive Attack.  Dead Editors, featuring Roots Manuva, is super industrial, very blippy in parts, while title track Ritual Spirit really ramps up the drama. Azekel’s vocal work is excellent, and wow, that bass line.

Voodoo In My Blood, which features Scottish hip-hoppers Young Fathers, is perhaps the weirdest track of this quartet of tunes, but that’s not to say it still isn’t magnificent, particularly towards its final stanzas.

You can listen to Ritual Spirit in its entirety right here.

It’s great to hear these guys making wondrous noises again. If only we had an album’s worth of material to plug into, though. Still no news on that possibility as far I can tell.

Formidable new tune carries an important message

A lot of new music is starting to pop up from some artists I love. Some of it I’m excited about, some of it not so much, but some of it is making me wet my pants and smile more broadly thank I thought possible.

When an email from The Joy Formidable dropped in my inbox this week declaring the band had uploaded a new track, I clicked without hesitation. This is where I ended up.

Just for an extra kick, check out the version posted on SoundCloud, because it has slightly bigger balls.

There have been some great rock bands to come out of Wales in the past — Stereophonics always got a good run on my sound system, and of course there is Feeder, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals and many other — but I always feel The Joy Formidable is a little underrated among not only Welsh bands, but British bands.

I guess it’s a relatively new group in terms of a band’s lifespan, but this this trio is already responsible for one of my favourite alt-rock songs of all time — the magnificent Whirring. If you haven’t heard it, please seek it out. You won’t regret it.

The Last Thing On My Mind, the first taste of The Joy Formidable’s new album Hitch, is a real bopper, and I’m sure you noticed the video is slightly saucy. Well, that’s all part of the message it carries — an important message in the context of the society we currently live in.

Lead singer Ritzy Bryan explains.

The Last Thing on My Mind was written and recorded in the summer of 2014 at our North Walian studio the Red Brick, just outside of Mold in Clwyd. It has the feel and sentiment of a lot of the tracks from our new album, it talks about feeling alive, being free and this track in particular touches upon sexual liberation; specifically about a woman’s carnal imagination.”

She continues, and this is where it gets good.

“We’re big on making our own music videos, so last month we started collecting footage and finishing the treatment to this song. The video follows a voyeuristic heterosexual female gaze (like my own) watching men in all forms, free, relaxed, sexy and objectified . It’s beautiful, provocative, occasionally pervy , sometimes just admiring the prowess of Hendrix and his guitar or Iggy’s gorgeous lack of inhibitions.

“The intent behind this video was formed as a group, with both my male band members. I think that’s important to mention because what fuelled this treatment was something that we’d all been feeling; that there just isn’t enough diversity in music videos when it comes to sexual representation.

“The male gaze is well represented, we see plenty of female nudity, statistically more than men, we see men in positions of power with scantily clad women, and we see female protagonists mirroring that power dynamic with overt sexual aggression.

“This obsession with who is sexually in control is negative for both sexes. The implication that all men are aggressive and that women need to compete in the same way isn’t the road to equality.
In music videos what we don’t see very often is men and women equal in their nudity and sensual without a power struggle.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been reading a lot about equality in all sorts of fields recently, and Ritzy and the gang have nailed the issue with it here.

She also reveals that finding footage of males in such objectified situations wasn’t easy. Funny that. All the men are too busy objectifying women to have time to be objectified themselves.

“The point here is, when the media representation is imbalanced,if we’re mostly seeing women sexualised or objectified, from a male perspective or otherwise, it’s limited, it’s damaging and frankly; it’s boring too,” she adds

“I’d like to see even more diversity please, in music videos and the way that sex is represented in general. Censorship is changing with the Internet and the way that music videos are reaching people, we’re socially becoming more accustomed to explicit material. If that’s what society has decided let’s see more bulges, more condoms, labia, different body types, pubic hair, even the long vilified erection is fine by me , everything presented equally with less taboo so that diversity is accepted.”

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this sentiment. Almost as much as I love the new track.

Hitch, which is The Joy Formidable’s third album, is set for release on 26 March.

Freddie Mercury’s isolated vocals are mind-blowing

We all know the late Freddie Mercury was an exceptional singer. He made Queen one of the most incredible bands to ever record music in any era. But you realise just how amazing his talent was when you hear his vocals isolated with no music around them. Here’s an example of that from We Are The Champions, which Queen recored in 1977, and also released in October of the same year.

How much do we miss Freddie? Enormously.

Nothing But Thieves release beautiful clip of Lover, Please Stay

This is stunning. You have been warned.

Nothing But Thieves has been one of my favourite bands for more than a year now, and I was shattered to hear their planned tour to Australia was cancelled this week as a result of the collapse of Soundwave Festival, of which they were to be a part. I had tickets to their sideshow, but no festival means no sideshows. Bummer.

They’ve stated they’ll try to get out here sometime later in 2016. I just hope their popularity hasn’t soared still further and they still book the small venue they were set to play at in Sydney — Oxford Arts Factory. Seeing them in such an intimate setting would be amazing, as this clip proves.

Madonna sings John Lennon’s Imagine on the streets of Paris

In between playing sold out shows in Paris, Madonna took time out to hit the streets to lead a little busk of John Lennon’s Imagine.

It’s been less than a month since the city was hit by terror attacks, with many people dying while enjoying music at the Bataclan Music Hall, where Madge’s fellow American musicians Eagles Of Death Metal were playing a show.

The message here, of course, is no amount of terror will ever break the resolve of most right-thinking people to live in peace and harmony. There is arguably no better piece of music than Lennon’s Imagine to communicate that, and this is all as we also remembered it was 35 years ago this week the Beatles legend was shot dead in the streets of New York.

Maria Mena slays Sam Smith

When it comes to covers, you can either get it hopelessly wrong, or you can get it beautifully right. No prizes for guessing which side of that fence we think Norway’s Maria Mena falls with this version of Sam Smith’s Stay With Me.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mena’s talents, she’s been a thing since the mid-2000s, releasing her first album, Another Phase, in 2002 at the age of 16. A second album, Mellow, followed in 2004 which got her some serious attention across Europe. It was a bit Alanis Morissette, poppy with a slight edge to it, and set her up as an artist capable of hitting the charts and radio on a consistent basis.

Let’s face it, anyone that can sing the words “fuck you” like an angel is worth your attention, and that angel is Mena for sure.

Since then, she’s progressed superbly and recently released a new single called I Don’t Want To See You With Her, maintaining her habit of writing super honest lyrics to go along with some achingly catchy pop melodies.

This one is off a new album Growing Pains, which is set to be released in a few days’ time.

Embers floating up from the darkness

It’s been almost two years since we last heard from mysterious Manchester band Embers, which is a shame, because what it produced in id-2013 was pretty epic.

This week, the quartet released some new material out of nowhere, putting track The Bitten Tongue up on YouTube. Check it out here.

While earlier material had the sweeping wall of sound normally associated with Sigur Rós and other post-rock acts, The Bitten Tongue hints at a change in the band’s direction, and is more Placebo than the previous things we heard.

Word is a whole bunch of new stuff has been recorded, and we’re likely to hear more when 2016 rolls around, which is a much shorter wait that we had to endure before.

As a reminder, here’s a live clip of the band’s previous direction. We hope it’s not entirely removed from the newer material, because as you’ll see it’s very impressive.

Eagles Of Death Metal talks about Paris, and asks you to cover its song

If you’re in a band, Eagles Of Death Metal is asking you to cover its song I Love You All The Time, and all the royalties earned from your performances will go towards the victims of the Paris attacks.

You’ll remember that EODM was playing a show at the Bataclan music hall in Paris on 13 November when armed terrorists burst in and started shooting indiscriminately, murdering up to 90 people dead.

VICE has just posted its first-hand account of what can only be described as an horrific experience via this interview. There is little more to say than that. Watch, and pray that these acts of terror cease soon, because they achieve nothing.

In the interview, Joshua Homme, co-founder of EODM, also calls on iTunes, Spotify and other music platforms to donate any money made from the playing of this track to the same cause, and The Sweet Stuff, an organisation dedicated to musicians suffering from illness or disability, is also pushing its proceeds to Paris until 31 December.

To all the victims of this crime, and the many others committed by terrorists around the world, we offer our heartfelt condolences.

Eagles Of Death Metal talk about Paris

Of all the accounts from the terror attacks in Paris on Friday 13 November 2015, one of the most intense is likely to be this — the first hand account of Eagles Of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes, whose band was playing at the Bataclan music hall on that fateful night.

“While Jesse and the band thankfully survived, some of the people closest to them did not. They include the band’s merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, as well as three colleagues from their record label, Thomas Ayad, Marie Mosser, and Manu Perez,” the interview synopsis reads.

Joshua Homme, while not part of the band’s live line-up, is also there to support his mate and offer his thoughts on the tragedy.

Of the more than 120 people killed that night in the French capital, 89 were slaughtered inside the club, all there simply to enjoy some great music with great people and friends.

There is no sense to the crime, no way of truly comprehending what happened. For Hughes, it will no doubt haunt him for the rest of his days. And this is a guys that’s already been through a hell of a lot in his 43 years of life.

We’ll be looking out for the full interview, and will update this post when it lands.

To all the victims and their loved ones, not just in Paris but the many other places in this world where terror has struck without mercy, we here at Light+Shade offer our heartfelt condolences and support.