RECORDS / New Releases: Massive Attack - Protection (Virgin, CD/ LP/tape)

Their first album, 1991's sumptuous Blue Lines, opened up a whole new imaginative world for British dance music, in the same way that De La Soul's Three Feet High And Rising did in America. It's lasted better too, perhaps because fewer others have dared to follow in Massive Attack's footsteps.

This long-awaited follow-up could hardly be expected to make the same dramatic impact, and on first hearing it seems a less bold, less personal record, but the more you listen to it, the better it gets. Massive Attack's Daddy G, 3D and Mushroom have brought in two intriguing new voices to fill the gap left by Shara Nelson's departure. Tracey Thorn has never sounded better than on the haunting title number and the combative 'Better Things'; and velvet-voiced Nicolette, who sings 'Three' and 'Sly' is a real discovery. Old faithful vocal supports Tricky and Horace Andy chime in for two numbers each, and with a couple of pocket film soundtracks thrown in for good measure, the final product is a sturdy Bristolian ark: a beautifully structured piece of work that is mysterious without being inscrutable.