Info → Atlas Air          

 The front cover of the Battle Box 001 limited edition vinyl, with artwork by street artist,  Paul Insect .

The front cover of the Battle Box 001 limited edition vinyl, with artwork by street artist, Paul Insect.

Development

UK Release: 22nd November 2010

UK Highest Chart: Ineligible

Track Duration: 07:46

Formats: CD, Vinyl, Digital. View Discography Entry.

Written By: Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall, Neil Davidge and John Baggot

Produced By: Robert Del Naja and Neil Davidge

Promo Video Directed By:Edouard Salier

Video Production By: Edouard Salier, Svana Gisla and David Danesi for Black Dog Films

Filming Location: N/A

Date Of Filming: N/A

Video Duration: 05:15

Atlas Air was the final song completed for Heligoland, with the final mix for it happening while Massive Attack were still on tour in late 2009, preceding the release of the album in February the following year. The evolution of the final mix of the song can be observed in live recordings of the time, with the track having a more guitar driven sound at the start of the tour in September 2009, which gradually made way for the more chirpy keyboard organ sounds heard at the end of the tour in November 2009.

The original working title for Atlas Air was Marakesh, which was what it was called on the 2009 tour, before the band finally settled on the Atlas Air moniker when the album was officially announced on Massive Attack.com on the 24th November 2009. Some confusion may exist over the Marakesh title as a completely different track which was also called Marakesh was played exclusively on the 2008 tour which featured vocals from Stephanie Dosen. That particular Marakesh song (which was ultimately scrapped) lent its name to the new Marakesh track for the following year’s tour before ultimately being renamed Atlas Air. You can hear what it sounded like in this video from the 2008 tour on Soundcloud.

Additional Info

The only song on Heligoland that has a co-writing credit for John Baggott, who was Massive Attack’s keyboardist, both in studio and out on tour at the time. He also worked in a similar capacity for fellow Bristol bandPortishead.

The name of the track, comes from an American passenger airline called Atlas Air. In 2006, Amnesty International released a report on extraordinary rendition which found that the airline Atlas Air was alleged to have be used by the US government for rendering detainees for torture or further detention. This naturally gives evidence to the notion that the song Atlas Air is about extraordinary rendition flights and illegal detainment. The promo video for the song and the accompanying LED visuals when it was performed live on the Heligoland tour would seemingly back up this claim.

Live Appearances

 Atlas Air when played live on the Heligoland tour (2009-2010), the LED screen behind Massive Attack contrasted such information as the flightpaths of rendition flights, with corporate logos and religious symbols.

Atlas Air when played live on the Heligoland tour (2009-2010), the LED screen behind Massive Attack contrasted such information as the flightpaths of rendition flights, with corporate logos and religious symbols.

Atlas Air (or Marakesh as it was known at the time) was first played live at the Bestival Festival on the Isle Of Wight on the 11th September 2009. It was an almost permanent feature on the Heligoland tour setlist for the remainder of 2009 and on into 2010, usually featuring as either the final or penultimate song for each show. It was last played on the final show the 2010 tour at the Hot Festival in Argentina on the 25th November 2010. You can actually listen to that same performance here on Soundcloud.

Variations/Remixes

Tim Goldsworthy RemixTim Goldsworthy who provided additional production on the album version of Atlas Air, offers a dance orientated remix here. He would also remix Pray For Rain from Heligoland also. His Atlas Air remix appeared exclusively on the Atlas Air EP released digitally on iTunes on the 22nd November 2010. This same EP was issued on a few rare promo CD’s released through Virgin EMI around the same time.

Jneiro Jarel Remix – Omar Jarel Gilyard, known by his stage name Jneiro Jarel, is an American music producer and DJ. His remix of Atlas Air was first released on his MySpace page during Summer 2010, before appearing on the Atlas Air EP released digitally on iTunes on the 22nd November 2010. This same EP was issued on a few rare promo CD’s released through Virgin EMI around the same time.

Notable Quotes

3D on the different sound elements in Atlas Air – “The track was meant to be slightly schizophrenic. I had the Middle Eastern drum part. It had the very analogue organ part which also felt it could have been seen slightly Turkish but European as well and the drums, disco but slightly Arabic. And then obviously the keys at the end just going off, electronically, in a more twisted fashion.” [The Independent – February 2010]

3D on the ever changing nature of Atlas Air as it went through the recording process – “Atlas Air was one of those epically difficult tracks, that had five different versions of it historically in its shadow. For some reason, it just could never get finished, and it ended up being a completely different musical track, different rhythm track, different lyrics, different vocal performance etc… Finally it got nailed on the deadline.” [Heligoland Interview EMI Promo DVD – January 2010]

Lyrics

 Tim Goldsworthy, co-founder of the Mo’ Wax record label and current owner of DFA records, provided additional production on Atlas Air and also remixed it for the Atlas Air EP.

Tim Goldsworthy, co-founder of the Mo’ Wax record label and current owner of DFA records, provided additional production on Atlas Air and also remixed it for the Atlas Air EP.

Yes, shall we take a spin again in business?
This time is fixed, let’s sweeten our facilities
It took all the man in me
To be the dog you wanted me to be

Shall we take a spin again, no witnesses?
This time is fixed seven three seven is
You won’t feel a thing
Begging until you give it up insane

Fish like little silver knives
Make the cuts on my inside
Yeah, let him feast my heart is big, my heart is big
My blood will slide in metal studs

Tourniquet will hold its groove
Tourniquet will keep its grip
It took all the man in me
To be the dog you wanted me to be

Yeah, let him feast my heart is big
My heart is big, my blood will slide
You let him feast my heart is big
My heart is big, my blood will slide

Got nothing to lose but my chains
Internet feeds on my brains
Head in the sand, feet in the clay
And time is still like grease it slips
Sucking in, spitting pips, yeah, spitting pips

Nothing to lose but my chains
Internet beats on my brains
Head in the sand, feet in the clay
A place to piece, a place to pray

A little money should get me on my feet
This gun of smoke is slaying me
And time is still like grease it slips
Sucking in, spitting pips, yeah, spitting pips

My heart was big and like my pride
Let them feast on my insides
And when the filled had spilled its guts
Gently open then it shuts

I’m in the hole three thousand days
A buried soul
They live the dream in terminal
No war too mean

I know the drill, got cells to burn, I’m dressed to kill
A mortal coil and time is still on secret soil
Yeah, pay the bills, cells to burn, mouths to fill
On Boeing jets in the sunset make glowing threats…

Promo Video

The promo video for Atlas Air directed and animated byEdouard Salier debuted online on the 17th October 2010. In the director’s own words it is intended as a prequel of sorts to his already released video for Splitting The Atom.

The concept for the video was realised between the director Edouard Salier and 3D when they met in Los Angeles earlier in 2010. In interviews Edouard Salier has given, he states that the video and also the song Atlas Air as he interprets them, are about rendition flights and the illegal detention of prisoners at places such as Guantanamo bay.

The video was included for free as a digital download as part of the Atlas Air E.P release on iTunes.

Quotes About The Video

 The Atlas Air video directed and animated by Edouard Salier was premiered online on the 17th October and acted as a prequel to the director’s other video for Splitting The Atom.

The Atlas Air video directed and animated by Edouard Salier was premiered online on the 17th October and acted as a prequel to the director’s other video for Splitting The Atom.

Edouard Salier on the meaning behind the video – “How strange, everybody’s asking me this question. I don’t like giving all the clues– the fact that it can’t be clearly seen is intentional. I want to disturb the audience and force them to interpret it. I want their unconscious to be invaded by something other than a marketed product. TV has already put our brains to sleep; reassuring scenarios with no creative perspective annoy me. And, sometimes, those can be dangerous.” [Pitchfork Magazine – November 2010]

External Links