Info → Psyche
UK Release: 8th February 2010 (Heligoland)
UK Release: 5th October 2009 (Splitting The Atom EP)
Track Duration: 03:25 (Flash Treatment - 03:48)
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Digital. View Discography Entry.
Written By: Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall, Neil Davidge and Martina Topley-Bird
Produced By: Robert Del Naja and Neil Davidge
1st Promo Video Directed By: John Downer
2nd Promo Video Directed By: Dougal Wilson
Psyche was constructed around a looping sample that 3D took from scratching a CD containing classical music and then recording the seemingly random jumps and skips when trying to play it back. This unusual recording technique was inspired by the minimalist composer Steve Reich. Plucked guitar notes and Martina Topley-Bird's vocals were then layered over the skipping loop sample to produce the final track.
Martina Topley-Bird, who many Massive Attack's fans would be aware of from her close connection to Tricky, came into the Massive Attack studios for the Heligoland recording sessions in early-mid 2009.
Elements from one of the unreleased tracks from the 2008 Massive Attack tour, Kingpin, were reused in Psyche. You can hear the same plucking guitar sample at the 01:16 mark in this live recording of Kingpin found on Soundcloud.
The Heligoland sessions of 2008 and 2009 produced three other Martina Topley-Bird tracks, Babel, Red Light and Invade Me. The first appeared on the album, while the latter two, whilst played live on the 2010 tour have yet be be released in a studio version.
3D remarked in one interview upon Heligoland's release that Psyche was probably his favourite track from the new album.
Psyche made its live debut at the beginning of the Heligoland tour at Bestival, Isle Of Wight on the 11th September 2009. It was played continually throughout the Heligoland tour of 2009/2010 with Martina Topley-Bird on live vocals on all those shows.
On the 2014 and 2016 tours however while Psyche did make a return with Martina Topley-Bird once again performing live vocals, the Flash Treatment remix of the song was now being performed and not the album version.
Flash Treatment – A remix by the Swedish electronic music producer, Christoffer Berg. It was first released on the Splitting The Atom EP (preceding the album version on Heligoland) in October 2009. This remix of the track has also become the defacto version of the track when it was played live on Massive Attack's 2014 and 2016 tours.
Flash Dub – A dub version of the above Flash Treatment remix. It was only released online to download in December 2009 via MassiveAttack.fr, a now defunct French promotional site setup by EMI to promote the then upcoming release of Heligoland in France.
3D on the recording process and meaning of Psyche – “Psyche came from the time when me and Neil were working in the studio and messing around with things. I was scratching CDs up... classical CDs... to get them to do this jumping thing. I was familiar with Steve Reich's work, and I knew how complex it was, and I thought: 'Do you know what, I'm going to fast-track this. I'm going to get a classical album and then I'm going to make it jump and then I'm going to sample each jump.' Then we just recorded guitar notes and layered them and played it to Martina. She fell in love with it and came back with these very bizarre lyrics. To me, the song is like when you close your eyes and you've got that strange shimmer of water or sunlight going through trees and it creates a strobing effect over your eyelids. You instantly get taken back to every single summer you've ever experienced, all in one collage.” [The Independent – February 2010]
Producer Neil Davidge on the recording process of Psyche – “I played everything on Psyche, programmed it, and gave the track to Martina. She put this sketch vocal on it and everyone loved it, felt there was no point in doing more to it. I’ve got a little classical guitar I play with at home just to get ideas, and I just started playing these little licks. I’m just not a good enough guitarist to play them fluidly, so I would just lay in two parts and start looping around those and slowly and painfully build up a chord structure. I didn’t want a traditional chorus and verse and flow to this tune; I just wanted it to start and evolve into something different.” [Electronic Musician Magazine – March 2010]
I'm looking for you in the woods tonight, I'm looking
Looking for you in my flashlight, I'm searching
From in the high or down the ocean
And I face myself in reason
Gain the wolf
Gain the wolf
Conjure me as a child
Slipping down a webside
Stretch up I cannot reach him
Jumping up they drag him from the water
I watch them march him into life
I watch them take him from the pale
Into the sky for your eagle eye
The sun seeds a sickle and a scythe
Ridicule they won't allow
Quench abuse and let love flower
Rip the cage out of your chest
Let the chaos rule the rest
Show without showing
What you know without knowing
Twigs snap eye / I catch no canoe only you and me
Alone on the old tea hope sea
Dissolving who we are
Call out for yesterdays destiny come
We're on a foreign shore
It was your mark of falling
I was the car still running
And will you call and be assured for life
And if you feel it you will fly
The sun should have been with me
When I was set to fall in
As I was set to fall in (x12)
Unlike the other promo videos produced for Heligoland, Psyche actually received two videos, even though only one was officially released at the time in 2010. Much like the other promo videos for the album, these were so called "micro-videos", produced for around £5000 by up and coming and established video directors eager to work with Massive Attack.
The first Psyche video released online on the 24th July 2010, was from the Bristol based documentary filmmaker John Downer, who specializes in wildlife and nature documentaries, which the resulting video was clear evidence of.
The 2nd video was produced by commercial director Dougal Wilson and filmed in London, and differentiated itself from the first Psyche video by featuring the Flash Treatment remix as its principal soundtrack and not the original album version. For unknown reasons this video was not ultimately used to promote the track or Heligoland in 2010, and was not officially released by Massive Attack or EMI (even though originally commissioned by them). The video however was leaked in April 2010 (before the official release of the first video) on a Russian music site, before the director self released it himself a few years later on his Vimeo Channel.