Massive Attack, "Heligoland"
Throughout the '90s, "trip-hop" was the best anyone could do to describe Massive Attack and the head-nodding family of talents it inspired, like Portishead and Tricky. But following the recent paths of those acts, Massive Attack's first effort in seven years pushes farther beyond its comfort zone. New album "Heligoland" pulls in guitars, pianos and more singers than MCs, often settling into a sound that's purposefully lo-fi. But the production duo of Robert Del Naja (3D) and Grand Marshall (Daddy G) hasn't lost its cinematic scope. The track "Paradise Circus" (featuring '90s ingénue Hope Sandoval) builds from hand claps and keyboards into a swell of sampled strings, while the shuffling drum pads on "Pray for Rain" (with TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe) provide the tense background for a down-the-rabbit-hole bridge with club-trance keys. It still warms the blood to hear those trip-hop synths roll on the slow-burning "Flat of the Blade" (with some acid loops thrown in for good measure), but Massive Attack's arsenal has expanded and the resulting onslaught is nothing short of brilliant.-Kerri Mason