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Album: Protection
Artist: Massive Attack
Label: Circa Records Limited
Year: 1994
Rating: 5/5
Summary: Beautifully understated, emotionally engaging, atmospheric.

I really like this album in the same way I really like Leftfield's album Leftism: it takes reggae and dub sensibilities - mostly a deep bass that envelopes you, coupled with generous use of the delay effect - and updates them to a mid-nineties style that still sounds great.

Another similarity that Massive Attack have to Leftfield is that they acknowledge the merits of songs over instrumental music without tying themselves to a single vocalist. This frees both bands to pick and choose from a variety of talented singers to bring a diverse range of vocals to their albums, and Protection is no exception.

In contrast to Leftism, however, this is much more downtempo, laid back and atmospheric. There are no pounding house beats - gentle sounding drum machines like the CR-78 get more of a workout than the more imposing TR-909 - and the synthesisers are used mostly to make shimmering pads, strings and deep bass. While this makes Protection excellent at providing ambience to a room, it's still got a lot of sustenance to offer anyone who'll sit down and listen to it with their full concentration.

Protection is a great example of how a little restraint can have a big emotional impact. From the piano melodies in Weather Storm and Heat Miser to the single note acid line in the background of the title track, this sounds like an album that was finished only when nothing else could have been taken out.

Massive Attack clearly know what popular music should be about: not pigeonholing music into genres, and not getting the mix to sound as loud as possible, but pairing music and words together to stir the emotions. Protection is as atmospheric as King Tubby's best dubs, yet as modern as Leftism. Unless you're adverse to modern music in general, you'll probably find something you like here.