“What the *&^% is trip hop?”, were the first words that dripped out of my mouth after quickly scanning Massive Attacks wiki page back in high school. I had been watching Hugh Laurie transform canes from geriatric to infinitely sexy on House again and I realized the shows theme song(“Teardrop” by Massive Attack) was kind of wonderful. A quick google search confirmed my suspicions, that Massive Attack was indeed Awesome, and that their work was classified as Trip hop which I learned is a style of music that combines elements of hip-hop and dub reggae with softer, more ambient sounds. Wiki describes it as “experimental variant of breakbeat which contain influences of soul, funk, and jazz.” What’s great about this genre is it gives you the fun beats of main stream music but with loads of layering that gives depth and complexity to the tracks.Massive Attack was merely a gateway to stranger and trip-hoppier pastures. Here are three trip hop bands that you should definitely check out if you are looking for some great new music (plus two extras if you are looking for bands that don’t want to be “pigeon holed” by genre labels):
1. MASSIVE ATTACK
As any true Californian would say, “this band is pretty rad.” They caught my interest with their single “Tear Drop” from their Album Mezzanine which came out in 1998 but they really stole my heart with their most recent Album “Heligoland” (2010), most particularly with their song “Paradise Circus” which fulfills all brilliantly syncopated, dark and sultry needs you may have. I could literally listen to this song a thousand times and not get tired of it, the album is fantastic as well! Their sound has evolved since their first album Blue Lines (1991) and understandably so since they have released four albums since then, two of which (Blue Lines and Mezzanine) were featured in Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. What’s awesome about this band is they were originally only founded by two/three main members (Robert “3D” Del Naja, Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, and Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles) so they often have guest artists who they collaborate with giving each album a unique sound and dynamic. Both founders have very interesting back stories(3D was a well-known graffiti artist before becoming a vocalist). However, I won’t go into detail. I would definitely recommend reading up on this group and checking out more of their work. Here’s just a taste of what they create:
I stumbled across this artist at random online when I was perusing the somewhat aberrant section of youtube and I fell in love. Saltillo is a one man band consisting of Menton J. Matthews III and whoever the heck he feels like collaborating with at the time. This guy IS A GENIUS. He is a painter, illustrator, comic book artist and an instrumental polyglot who can play: cello, viola, violin, guitar, drums, piano, and bass, as well as a slew of electronics. He originally formed a band called Sunday at Munich with his wife but later produced solo work under the name Saltillo. One fan of his work described his first album Ganglion as, “twelve tracks that merge chamber orchestra intimacy with the caliginous seduction of trip-hop.” The instrumental arrangement would have sold me on its own but my god was I done for when I, a lowly English major, realized Matthews had incorporated verses from Shakespeare (as well as Edgar Guest) into his music. I know this all sounds freakishly pretentious, and it doesn’t help that even the Amoeba music database had no idea who he is, but honestly give it a go. His work is truly brilliant. Saltillo’s tracks have so much depth it forces you to listen actively and inspires a profound sense of satisfaction that transcends mere cognition. Check out one of his singles, you won’t be sorry…
This trio would be woefully incomplete without mentioning this 1991 band that helped pioneer the genre. Portishead released their debut album, Dummy in ’94. A trio fronted by singer Beth Gibbons. Unlike Massive Attack, Portishead’s primary influences was 1960s and ’70s film soundtrack LPs. Nevertheless, Portishead shared the scratchy, jazz-sample-based aesthetic of early Massive Attack. Dummy was won the Mercury Music Prize as the best British album of the year which brought trip hop into focus. Portishead’s music, “seen as cutting edge in its film noir feel and stylish, yet emotional appropriations of past sounds,” was also widely imitated following the albums release. Check out “Glory Box” for a little taste of their work:
I included their video as the header because it’s one of my favorites. Even though they reject being labelled by a single genre (or any), it is undeniable that they share many of the key elements that seem to define the very diverse genre of Trip Hop. If you like Breeze Blocks, check out the video for Fitzpleasure, which is also visually fascinating.
IMonster is also fairly experiemental with their sound. Their band and label names are derived from horror film movie titles. IMonster is composed of Dean Honer and Jarrod Gosling and was founded in the late 90’s. They released three albums between ’98-’09. Though they are often referred to as electronic, or psychedelic pop, they also fall into the Trip hop genre with their mixed beats and retro overlay, evident in their awesometrakc “Daydream in Blue” whose link is provided below:
Hope you enjoyed this random compilation. Happy listening 🙂