Massive Attack, "Heligoland" (Virgin)
Massive Attack is less a band than a cloud of free-floating anxiety. The British duo has largely sworn off deep bass on its first studio album since 2003, making for crisp, transparent productions but losing a lot of atmospheric murk. Various tracks might be mistaken for Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails or TV on the Radio (with Tunde Adebimpe from that band taking lead vocals on "Pray for Rain"). What unites "Heligoland" is Massive Attack's love of repetition as well as its somber attitude about love and world affairs alike.
Reggae singer Horace Andy croons about thwarted romance in "Girl I Love You." For Blur's Damon Albarn, Massive Attack constructs a ravaged version of Britpop grandeur (via Radiohead) in "Saturday Come Slow." Martina Topley Bird appears in "Babel," a skeletal rocker, and "Psyche," with hypnotic arpeggios bouncing between stereo channels. Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval whispers about love and sin in "Paradise Circus."
"Heligoland" comes across as an anthology. It's a dour collection of concepts and strategies -- some successful -- as Massive Attack ponders what to do after trip-hop.
JON PARELES, NEW YORK TIMES
Pat Metheny, "Orchestrion" (Nonesuch)
On his new CD, guitarist Metheny plays alone. He fills out the session via an orchestrion, a machine meant to mimic percussion, a player piano and much of an orchestra. The orchestrions had their heyday in the era before music recording, and Metheny uses a novel one here to generate the sounds of keyboards, percussion, vibraphone and other instruments, all triggered by his guitar. The result sounds like typical Metheny, only more so.
A clean sound predominates with hints of an airy Brazilian vibe. The charts are driving but tuneful. A discreet sense of urgency prevails. Much here sounds good and technically impressive. But it doesn't seem as if Metheny surprises himself much. Still, its intriguing moments include "Soul Search," a handsome ballad with some soulful parts, and "Spirit of the Search," which generates sufficient fire.
KARL STARK, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER