Learn How To Recreate Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’


We love track deconstructions, especially when they are about some of our most-loved songs. During the latest Ableton Loop in Berlin, Point Blank’s instructor Ski Oakenfull went to town on perhaps the best single of the 90’s: Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’.

‘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 we learn in the video, the track features no bassline.

Getting into the deconstruction, 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 hear Ski’s completed version, and the results are, frankly, bang on.

These deconstructions are used to teach students about production techniques, arrangement and composition, and there’s plenty more where this came from in PB’s course materials.

If you’d like to learn how to use all of the techniques shown here and more, enroll in one of their Music Production courses.

Get loads more instructional tools like these over at Point Blank’s Youtube Channel.

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