This long-awaited dub version of Massive Attack's Mezzanine LP is a treat for fans and casual listeners alike.
One can confidently assume that the legendary dub engineer Mad Professor was asked to remix Mezzanine, the third Massive Attack album, off the back of the runaway success of 1995's No Protection. That LP, which featured dub versions of tracks from Massive Attack's second full-length, Protection, sold more than a million copies, becoming "one of the best-selling dub albums ever," according to Mad Professor, real name Neil Fraser. What's more difficult to ascertain, though, is why the Mezzanine remix project, which was due to be released in 1998 alongside the album, was eventually shelved.
Last month, Massive Attack V Mad Professor Part II (Mezzanine Remix Tapes '98) was finally released as part of Mezzanine's 20th anniversary. Five of its eight tracks may already be familiar to diehard fans, having appeared on various 12-inches and compilations before and after Mezzanine's original release. (Another track, "Risingson (Setting Sun Dub 2)," was uploaded anonymously to launch the band's Myspace page in 2007.) Still, it's the first time they've all been available in the same place, both digitally and on vinyl. This is a great thing—like No Protection, Part II is a fantastic record, presenting fresh, cosmic versions of classics and lesser-known tracks.
Mezzanine, Massive Attack's most commercially successful album, was a torment to make as its members argued over the band's direction. The album's dramatic shift in sound was the result of bitter infighting, missed deadlines and months of neurotic tinkering. The soulful dubbiness of Blue Lines and Protection gave way to rockier, more paranoid atmospheres. But Part II is, for the most part, an upbeat record. Fraser puts a spring in the step of famously dusky tracks like "Angel," "Inertia Creeps" and "Teardrop." His "(Mazaruni Dub 1)" of "Teardrop" is a particular delight, tweaking and splintering the sombre pads, harpsichord melody and Elizabeth Fraser's vocals into a smoky, bassy beauty. It's one for crafty DJs looking to turn heads and melt hearts at the afterparty.
The LP could even, at points, be called summery. "Exchange (Mountain Steppers Dub)" is bright and woozy, its swirl and lumbering gait evoking the haze of a magic mushrooms trip on a sunny day. (Granted, the dreamy original is an outlier on Mezzanine.) "Wire (Leaping Dub)," one of two remixes of non-Mezzanine tracks, strips away the original's coarse guitars and Sara Jay's vocals, leaving the excellent bassline to power through a whooshing deluge of sonic shrapnel. Every so often, threads of gorgeous acoustic guitar light up the composition.
But Fraser wouldn't be doing right by Massive Attack if there weren't some dank moments on Part II. Even without 3D and Daddy G's hushed, anxious raps, "Risingson (Setting Sun Dub 2)" is creepy, a disorientating soundscape of cymbal crashes, bird cries and what might be the coolest sound on the record: a synth gurgle the texture of tar, which enters halfway. Creepier still is "Group Four (Security Forces Dub)," the only track where the remix might be eerier than the original. With none of Elizabeth Fraser's high-pitched warbles, the dub is noisy and bleak. The notion of dub versions was born from a desire to experiment, to pull and twist a song's elements into exciting new forms. But many people's favourite remixes also stay faithful to the source material. Part II gets this balance just right.
Tracklist01. Metal Banshee (Mad Professor Mix 1)
02. Angel (Angel Dust)
03. Teardrop (Mazaruni Dub 1)
04. Inertia Creeps (Floating On Dubwise)
05. Risingson (Setting Sun Dub 2)
06. Exchange (Mountain Steppers Dub)
07. Wire (Leaping Dub)
08. Group Four (Security Forces Dub)