This drum 'n bass-style rave-up features the vocals of Martina Topley-Bird, who first came to prominence as the featured female vocalist on Bristol-based Trip-Hop pioneer Tricky's landmark debut album Maxinquaye. She continued her collaboration with the Bristolian as his muse-chanteuse and featured on his following three albums, her soft feminine vocals contrasting with Tricky's menacing mutterings. Following a falling-out of their professional and personal relationship in 1998, Topley-Bird began pursuing a solo career and in 2003 she released her Mercury Music Prize nominated, solo debut album Quixotic. The chanteuse also features on lead vocals on another Heligoland track, "Psyche."
Massive Attack founding member Robert "3D" Del Naja discussed Topley-Bird's contribution to this song with The Independent February 12, 2010: "Martina would describe 'Babel' as a teenage love song. When we were working on it she said, 'Oh, my lyrics have gone all teenage!' With all the people we've worked with successfully, the thing we've really admired is their ability to convey themselves through their voice when they sing and bring everything to it. It's not a singing lesson and they're haven't always had the most acrobatic of voices. It's what they're expressing that counts. Dave Sitek [from TV On The Radio] said, 'I always get people who can't sing to sing'. It's like... wow! That's how you get the natural, untrained thing that is really beautiful and it's what we're looking for."
The song "Sadeness" by Enigma (the one with the chanting monks), got its name from the French novelist Marquis de Sade, who believed sex had to be painful in order to be pleasurable - thus the word "sadism."