Check out how “Unfinished Symphony” by Massive Attack was produced

Massive Attack

Point Blank’s Lead Course Developer Ski Oakenfull has been regularly showing his skills by deconstructing some of the dance music anthems. He takes a track apart and rebuilds it piece by piece allowing viewers to see and to try to reproduce their favourite tune. Recorded at Ableton Loop where Point Blank featured as a partner on the programme, Ski went to town perhaps the best single of the 90’s: Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy”.

So last year at Ableton’s industry summit, Loop, Point Blank was invited to demonstrate what the music school is all about. One of the highlights was definitely a deconstruction of one of the greatest tracks pressed to wax in the way only Ski can do it. “Unfinished Sympathy” was a revelation on release in 1991 and continues to be so today, a triple-threat of the band’s vision, Will Malone’s iconic string arrangement, and Shara Nelson’s gorgeous lyrics and delivery. Interestingly, as the video shows, the track features no bassline.

Getting into the deconstruction then, Ski samples the break from JJ Johnson’s ‘Parade Strut’, and the vocal snippet that appears throughout from the rather obscure ‘Planetary Citizen’ by John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The string parts he composes from Ableton’s own in-built String Ensemble pack, and the bell riff he grabs from an old hotel bell. For those incredible vocals, he enlists the help of Valerie Etienne of Galiano and, lately, Jamiroquoi, who recorded some acapellas. Finally, with a few extra elements thrown in, we can hear Ski’s completed version, and the results are quite remarkably similar. You can listen original below and you can compare it by yourself.

If you’d like to learn how to use all of the techniques shown here and more, enrol in one of Point Blank’s Music Production courses HERE.


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