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Splitting The Atom

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The Splitting The Atom EP released on the 5th October 2009, acted as a preview for the forthcoming Heligoland album at the time. Pictured above is the limited edition vinyl edition produced by The Vinyl Factory.

The Splitting The Atom EP released on the 5th October 2009, acted as a preview for the forthcoming Heligoland album at the time. Pictured above is the limited edition vinyl edition produced by The Vinyl Factory.

 

Development

Splitting The Atom was the product of Massive Attack going into Damon Albarn’s London studio for a period of roughly two weeks in late 2008, in an attempt to finish the fifth studio album. This was following Massive Attack’s decision which had perplexed their record label at the time, to abandon the majority of the songs they had been working on up to then and which had been debuted live earlier that same year.

They hoped that working with Damon Albarn (who was good friend and past collaborator of the band), would provide the impetus or needed external inspiration to finish the album and Splitting The Atom was the first song completed in these sessions. The two Martina Topley-Bird tracks from Heligoland (Babel and Psyche) were also largely completed during this period with Damon.

Additional Info

Relatively speaking, Splitting The Atom was one of last songs made for the Heligoland album, even though it was the first track to be debuted from the album on BBC1′s Zane Lowe show on the 25th August 2009. The accompanying Splitting The Atom EP was released digitally on the 5th October 2009, functioning as a preview sampler for the upcoming new album.

Damon Albarn, who plays the keyboards on this track had previously worked with Massive Attack on Small Time Shot Away from 100th Window, and “One Day At A Time” from the Ordinary Decent Criminal soundtrack.

First new Massive Attack track since 1998′s Mezzanine to feature Daddy G on vocals. The last time he had recorded vocals that featured on a record was backing vocals on the Alpha track “Wishes” from their 2001 album “The Impossible Thrill”.

Some of the lyrics heard in Splitting The Atom, had been previously used in the unreleased Massive Attack track Dobro played exclusively on the 2008 live tour, before being abandoned like much of the other new material from that year. Snippets of these reused lyrics from Dobro include “Repeating the joke; The meaning it dies” and “The needle sticks and the penny drops”.

Splitting the Atom was used as the opening theme music on the short lived 2011-2012 HBO TV series “Luck” starring Hollywood actor Dustin Hoffman. This recalls the last time a Massive Attack track had been used in the opening theme music for a major American TV series – Teardrop in Fox’s House M.D.

Blur & Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn who helped co-write Splitting The Atom, also performed the track with Massive Attack for the first time at the Brixton Academy, London on the 17th September 2009.

Blur & Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn who helped co-write Splitting The Atom, also performed the track with Massive Attack for the first time at the Brixton Academy, London on the 17th September 2009. View the video of that performance on YouTube.

Live Appearances

Splitting The Atom was first played live at the Bestival Festival on the Isle Of Wight on the 11th September 2009. The second time it was played just over a week later, on the 19th at Brixton Academy, Massive Attack were joined on stage by Damon Albarn performing keyboards and backing vocals on stage. Damon Albarn would perform Splitting The Atom with Massive Attack one last time at the Hammersmith Apollo on the 11th February 2010. Outside of these special performances, Splitting The Atom has become a semi permanent fixture at most Massive Attack shows (continuing to do so on the 2014 tour) usually being performed towards the end of the setlist with vocals as they are on the album by 3D, Daddy G and Horace Andy.

Notable Quotes

Daddy G on the meaning behind the name Splitting The Atom – “It’s just a reference that D made to splitting us. The way that we’ve moved and taken our ideas since our incarnation as The Wild Bunch, then Massive Attack and how things have split away from the main source. People have fallen away, we’ve split off into different factions – it’s just a metaphor for how we work.” [Clash Music - October 2009]

3D on working with Damon Albarn in his London studio during the sessions that produced Splitting The Atom – “Damon agreed to work with us after saying he wouldn’t get sucked into a two year Bristolian vortex and would only do over a period of two weeks from the hours of 10am to 6pm and everything would be in a major key, no minor keys whatsoever. Of course all that changed when we got there, apart from the vortex bit!” [Heligoland Promo EMI Interview DVD - January 2010]

Lyrics

Daddy G:

The bed it was warm
Nettles and Ferns
The evening it chokes
The candle it burns
This disguise covers
Bitter lies
Repeating the joke
The meaning it dies
Pass me a coat I’m not afraid to leave
I’m letting you know
I know what you need
I’ll turn you around
This beautiful town
And then you’ll believe it when your eyes then deceive you

Horace Andy:

Its easy, dont let it go
Its easy, dont let it go
Its easy, dont let it go
Don’t Lose It

Daddy G:

Its getting colder outside
Your rented space
They shadow box and they
Paper chase
It never stops
And we’ll never learn
No hope without dope
The jobless return
The bankers have bailed
The mighty retreat
The pleasure it fails
At the end of the week
You take it or leave
Or what you receive
To what you receive
Is eternity leave

Horace Andy:

Its easy, dont let it go
Its easy, dont let it go
Its easy, dont let it go
Don’t lose it

The first of the two promo videos for Splitting The Atom was directed by Baillie Walsh, who had previously directed all of the Blue Lines era videos for Massive Attack back in 1991-1992.

The first of the two promo videos for Splitting The Atom was directed by Baillie Walsh, who had previously directed all of the Blue Lines era videos for Massive Attack back in 1991-1992.

3D:

Incandescent light at doors
In adolescent menopause
In little clicks you got the music stops
The needle sticks and the penny drops
The summer’s gone before you know
The muffled drums of relentless flow
You’re looking at stars that give you Vertigo
The sun’s still burning and dust will blow
Honey scars I’ll keep you near
Our blood is gold nothing to fear
We killed the time and I love you dear
A kiss of wine we’ll disappear
The last of the last particles
Divisible invisible
The last of the last particles
Divisible invisible

Promo Video

There were two different promo videos made for Splitting The Atom. The first video (i.e. the bull fight video) directed by Baillie Walsh was released online on the 25th September 2009, just a few weeks before the release of the Splitting the Atom E.P. Baillie Walsh was the acclaimed music video director who had directed all of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines era videos. This marked his first time working with Massive Attack again since 1992.

The second promo video for Atlas Air was directed and animated by Edouard Salier, and debuted online on the 3rd February 2010. Even though it came first, it is intended to be seen as a sequel to the the director’s future Massive Attack collaboration on the Atlas Air video.

The second video for Splitting the Atom was directed by French animator Edouard Salier. He would later direct the video for Atlas Air, which served as a prequel to his original video for Splitting The Atom.

The second video for Splitting the Atom was directed by French animator Edouard Salier. He would later direct the video for Atlas Air, which served as a prequel to his original video for Splitting The Atom.

Quotes About The Video

3D on Baillie Walsh’s “Bull Fight” video for Splitting The Atom – “When Baillie Walsh suggested the idea of filming a bull fight, it was obviously an issue we found difficult and troubling, because we don’t agree with that sort of torture or cruelty. So watching it was hard work and it was very far from an enjoyable experience, but we were suddenly in the same place as everyone else watching and removed from the song and getting the same impression and the same emotional response everyone else was getting from it, which was quite strange.” [Heligoland Promo EMI Interview DVD - January 2010]

Edouard Salier on how his video should be interpreted – “I don’t like the word ‘political’ – I would say this is a ‘committed’ film. If you refer to it as a political piece, it could be assimilated into propaganda and that is not the point of the film. I make films for the purpose of provoking a reaction from the audience, but I don’t intend to convince people of my views. I just want to lead the viewer in a world he never experienced before. I want to shake them out (with their unconscious and their guts). I want them to question themselves.” [Pitchfork Magazine - February 2010]

External Links

Interpretations From SongMeanings.com
Splitting The Atom EP Review From Pitchfork Magazine
Splitting The Atom (Promo Video) Directed By Baillie Walsh
Brixton 2009 Live Performance With Special Appearance From Damon Albarn
KCRW Radio Show 2010 Live Performance
HBO’s Luck Opening Titles