Massive Attack have teamed up with Algiers, Young Fathers, and Saul Williams to release an incredibly interesting audio-visual EP that feels like more of an art installation than three tracks that happened to be released together. The EP, entitled Eutopia, is essentially a series of three mini-lectures with enough audio and visual stimulation to keep your wandering mind in place. Three songs, three videos, and three messages tied together by a call for global systemic change in context of the coronavirus epidemic. Each video starts with the coordinates for the lockdown location (interesting since the artists nor the speakers were never in the same place at the same time) and ends with a quote from Thomas More’s Utopia, adding to the cultural and intellectual bend of the outing. There are no song titles and the text from the lecture snippets lays in large font over the video, emphasizing the message over the music.
The collaboration with Algiers features the voice of UN Paris Climate Agreement author Chistiana Figueres explaining that the current global health crisis is but the 4th crisis of our time. Figueres emphasizes the role of governments as initiators of systemic change, but urges us to remember that it is our social fabric in the end that will strengthen and lengthen this change. The track is strong and driven yet subtle enough for Figueres’ voice to stand out, and her tone matches the music and the uneasy visuals of skulls perfectly. This is a stand-out track.
With Young Fathers and Professor Guy Standing (co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network), Massive Attack emphasize the economic struggles that trail the outbreak. The instrumentation tastes like 90s trip hop, and is soothing in comparison to the content of the message. The only problem here is the vocalizing and the speaking clash for attention, but luckily we’ve got large text to keep us on track. Sort of like an intellectual karaoke machine.
The track with Saul Williams is haunting. Corporate greed is so normalized it’s a bit of a joke now, but this track reminds that your enemy can hide in broad daylight. The music provides enough space for Professor Gabriel Zucman to explain how many nations lose viable tax income to huge corporations that keep their wealth in tax havens while collecting bailout money; all while we watch the map of “a better place, that does not exist” morph into skull island.
I love when artists put thought into things, and Massive Attack and their collaborators have done it here. The songs were a backdrop. Sure, I nodded my head, but I got up from my computer and felt like I needed to go to the library, so thanks for that Massive Attack. I don’t feel like I just reviewed an EP. I’m not sure what it felt like, but it didn’t feel like music. And that’s brilliant because right now I’m not sure what the world feels like, but it doesn’t feel like the world.