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The Story of Trip-Hop's Rise
January 31, 2012 2:21 PM   Subscribe

The Story of Trip-Hop's Rise Sinuous and mysterious as a plume of drifting smoke, a new sort of groove wafted two decades ago from Bristol, a bohemian university town in the west of England.... Not all local grooves take flight, but trip-hop most certainly did. Over the next two decades it was re-imagined as chill-out, downtempo, illbient and lounge music.
posted by modernnomad (50 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ooo. I get to be the first one to be sad that his favorite trip-hop band isn't listed?
Lamb.
posted by matt_od at 2:50 PM on January 31, 2012


"Glory Box" is pretty much the definitive trip-hop song for me. That being said, if Beth Gibbons posted on AskMe, she would be told to get therapy, and well, it wouldn't be poor advice. Third was good musically, but to hear her still leaning on that trite self-pitying sniveling ten years later was a colossal disappointment.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 2:51 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lamb

Aw, they did some good stuff. Very much second wave though.

(also they are still around, but their comeback album was a bit rubbish)
posted by Artw at 2:52 PM on January 31, 2012


Man, trip-hop was my genre of choice in my (depressive) late teens. I had so many albums, and so many of them were so fucking dull -- scratchy record sounds? Check. Ethereal torch singing? Check. WE GOT OURSELVES A TRIP-HOP GROUP -- and I enjoyed them anyway.


Also: Lamb Britney Spears on a Heroin Bender
posted by griphus at 2:53 PM on January 31, 2012


Is it weird that I didn't really start enjoying trip-hop until I was well into my 30s? Such a nice alternative to the hair-metal days of my youth.
posted by malaprohibita at 2:54 PM on January 31, 2012


Third was good musically, but to hear her still leaning on that trite self-pitying sniveling ten years later was a colossal disappointment.

The Youtube clips of their recent live tour were pretty amazing, I really wish I'd gone.
posted by Artw at 2:54 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and remember in The Fifth Element when that black dude comes up to get tickets claiming to be Korben Dallas? And gets exploded?

That's Tricky and he's high as a fuckin' kite.
posted by griphus at 2:54 PM on January 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, wow, apparently he was in considerably more of the movie than I recall:
"That's what was crazy. Someone always had spliff on the set, so I was walking around stoned basically. Funny things used to happen, like I was eating a Twix just before this scene with Gary Oldman and I've got my back to the camera, so I didn't think nothing of it. So I'm eating this Twix and he's looking at me as he's doing his part and his eye strays to my mouth and he just stops in the middle of his line and he says, (inmockney) He's facking eatin' a Twix! I couldn't get the perception that I was there, kind of... I didn'take it very seriously. But Gary Oldman took me in, used to make me cups of tea and shit like that. He's got a real deep soul. Y'know, he permitted me to hang out with him and he's up there.
posted by griphus at 2:57 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's Tricky and he's high as a fuckin' kite.

Ah yes, the brief period where him and Goldie would just sort of turn up in things.
posted by Artw at 2:57 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Andy Barlow of Lamb set up a burrito van that is parked up at Brighton Wood Recycling Project at the moment. Nice burritos. Very nice in fact...
posted by i_cola at 2:58 PM on January 31, 2012


Bristol, a bohemian university town in the west of England....

BWWAAAAHhhhahahahahahahah
posted by howfar at 3:01 PM on January 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


Considering how completely ravenoud I was for Bristol "trip hop" back then, I am absolutely astounded I didn't realize Neneh Cherry was affiliated with Massive Attack.

Also Earthling would have been absolutely huge if they just dropped that rapper. My friends and I used to joke that he must have been the local weed supplier and therefore the only guy with the cash to buy good recording equipment and records. All the talented artist types were including him so they could stay smoked out and make music.
posted by Hoopo at 3:01 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


BWWAAAAHhhhahahahahahahah

I was gonna say something howfar, but I only visited there. in the day time it was full of toothless 16 year-olds with babies and cigarettes, dressed in track suits and ball caps.
posted by Hoopo at 3:02 PM on January 31, 2012


Bristol, a bohemian university town in the west of England....

BWWAAAAHhhhahahahahahahah


To be clear, that's a pull quote from the NPR piece, not my own judgement!
posted by modernnomad at 3:06 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


My biggest impression of Bristol was of how it was kind of nice to hang out in during the week, but the town center turned into an urban hellscape as soon as the townies came in for the weekend.
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on January 31, 2012


in the day time it was full of toothless 16 year-olds with babies and cigarettes, dressed in track suits and ball caps.

Yeah, but no, but yeah...

Well that character is probably a little too harsh, and there is plenty of good stuff in Bristol, but it's certainly not perceived as a haven of bohemian lifestyles. My suspicion is that Vivien Goldman is every so slightly shaky on the difference between Bristol and Brighton, but that's just a guess.

(modernnomad, I did check, so wasn't I laughing at you. Don't mock the messenger and all that)
posted by howfar at 3:13 PM on January 31, 2012


Portishead on the other hand was actually a beautiful little town (although not much to do there).
posted by Hoopo at 3:13 PM on January 31, 2012


Nice article. I'm playing Blue Lines now in honor of it and, honestly, it's tough going. Protection is much more to my liking for Trip Hop. And then there's of course Portishead. But my favorite music from this era is Tricky's Nearly God. It's so completely fucked up, stretched out, it's like DJ Screw mixed with Euroclub or something. Love it.

What's up with the weird vocal tick Tricky has when speaking? It's all over Fifth Element, a strange catch in his throat, almost a froggy growling sound. I've heard it in other British men of Caribbean or African heritage, so I assume it's cultural. It sounds awesome.
posted by Nelson at 3:26 PM on January 31, 2012


Huh, I always figured that rasp in Tricky's voice was from breathing equal parts pot smoke and air.
posted by murphy slaw at 3:33 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


my favorite music from this era is Tricky's Nearly God.

I also think Tricky's stuff from this era has held up the best of the whole bunch, for me particularly "Pre-Millenium Tension". I feel like I overdid it with Portishead, and Massive Attack's style became so much of a starting point for the genre that in retrospect it somehow doesn't sound as vital as it did at the time; Blue Lines and Protection almost sound like trip-hop cliches or something now. They certainly didn't age as well as the others. I'll cop to still listening to "No Protection" though -- Mad Professor did a great job of making the whole thing sound more organic and unpredictable with his dub treatment.
posted by Hoopo at 3:40 PM on January 31, 2012


"Glory Box" is pretty much the definitive trip-hop song for me. That being said, if Beth Gibbons posted on AskMe, she would be told to get therapy, and well, it wouldn't be poor advice. Third was good musically, but to hear her still leaning on that trite self-pitying sniveling ten years later was a colossal disappointment.

God I wore out my copy of Dummy in high school and it's still probably one of my favorite albums ever, but for some reason (i.e. being in small-town Oklahoma and only knowing about what played on the radio) I didn't branch out to more trip-hop until after college. I was a little shocked the first time I heard "Hell is Around the Corner."
posted by Navelgazer at 3:47 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Between Trp Hop and Ambiet Dub I think I hit the mid 90s as a fan of music genres with the absolute worst kind of pretentious names... Oh yeah, and "Drum and Bass", the middle class name for Jungle.
posted by Artw at 3:50 PM on January 31, 2012


Lamb

Aw, they did some good stuff. Very much second wave though.

(also they are still around, but their comeback album was a bit rubbish)


Very much second wave? They're first studio album came out within two years of Portishead's.
And awww, I rather like the new album.


Oh, and remember in The Fifth Element when that black dude comes up to get tickets claiming to be Korben Dallas? And gets exploded?

That's Tricky and he's high as a fuckin' kite.


That was WHY I originally went to the theater to see that movie! I wanted to see Tricky in a movie! Now-a-days I would have gone just to see Gary Oldman.
posted by matt_od at 3:55 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was the same period where I'd go to see films because they had Iggy Pop or Ice T in some minor role... I saw an awful lot of crap back then.
posted by Artw at 3:57 PM on January 31, 2012


Oh man I'd totally forgotten about the Tricky cover of Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.
posted by Nelson at 4:05 PM on January 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


I fucking love that thing...
posted by Artw at 4:06 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Is it weird that I didn't really start enjoying trip-hop until I was well into my 30s? Such a nice alternative to the hair-metal days of my youth.<

I could’ve written that, but partly that’s because I was in my 30’s by the time it got rolling. That kind of stuff, and any dub influenced music, is mostly what I listen to. And old time country.

I ignored it for a while though because I heard all the excitement about Blue Lines and just wasn’t into it (still aint). When Mezzanine came out it knocked me out though and I had to catch up.
Speaking of writing things off, I couldn’t get excited about Maxinquyeyeh when it came out, but listening to bits of it in that article made me think I’ve been missing out. I’ll have to revisit.
posted by bongo_x at 4:12 PM on January 31, 2012


Out of the trip hop artists I know (not that any of them ever seem to self identify as such), I've been partial to DJ Krush. Partially for having the best hook in the first paragraph of his wikipedia bio page.

"Early into his career as a yakuza underling, Ishi discovered a severed finger wrapped in paper on his desk. Later, after discovering that it had belonged to his best friend, he decided to leave the yakuza..."


Yup! That will do it.
posted by Winnemac at 4:37 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a DJ Krush / Coldcut double disk set that Ninja Tuen did that's just sublime... I'll have to hunt that down again.
posted by Artw at 4:39 PM on January 31, 2012


I was just musing last night on what an absolutely peerless debut Maxinquaye is. My nihilistic college-freshman heart loved Nearly God even more at the time, but now, aside from "Black Coffee", I don't go back to it as much as I ought.
posted by mykescipark at 4:50 PM on January 31, 2012


howfar: My suspicion is that Vivien Goldman is every so slightly shaky on the difference between Bristol and Brighton, but that's just a guess.

Say what you want about the article, but I'm pretty sure you're mistaken on this point. Vivien Goldman is a fucking legend, one of the best writers on the crossover between punk and reggae, co-founder of the Flying Lizards, author of one amazing single – Launderette, a joyous bit of wonky oddness from 1981 – and a hugely important figure in independent British music, involved in the birth of both Rough Trade and On-U Sound.

I think it's fair to say she knows her Bristols from her Brightons, as it were.
posted by Len at 4:50 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I rented (yeah, there were places where you could rent CDs, although I think not very many) Dummy after seeing the video for "Sour Times," and it was one of the very few times I could say I'd never heard *anything* like it before. I'm not saying there weren't other groups with a sound similar to Portishead, just that (as a classic rock fan throughout high school and my early 20s) I had absolutely no exposure to them. I remember one of my housemates poking his head into my room and asking "Who is this?"
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:17 PM on January 31, 2012


No love for Morcheeba? Definitely not first wave...Massive Attack gets that title hands down. Who Can You Trust landed in 1996, not far behind Portishead. Granted, Massive Attack and Portishead went a whole lot deeper, but Morcheeba had a certain something as well. And when they sort of left trip hop behind with Big Calm, in my opinion they made a great album. It's one I still go back to, along with Protection.
posted by ashbury at 7:05 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also the Mo Wax label was pretty much entirely fantastic all throughout the 90s. These I still listen to today and are among my all time faves of the genre. There's some dated DnB stuff on there, but in my mind they surpassed anything Ninja Tune put out. But the releases this label put out! I mean do you remember when Air's Modular Mix came out? Dr Octogon? UNKLE's The Time Has Come EP? DJ Krush? DJ Shadow's first singles and Endtroducing? Blackalicious' Melodica (still their best IMHO)? Mo Wax seemed like they had an unlimited supply of the coolest shit ever back then.
posted by Hoopo at 7:39 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but what the hell happened to Morcheeba post Big Calm?
posted by panaceanot at 8:14 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Between Trp Hop and Ambiet Dub I think I hit the mid 90s as a fan of music genres with the absolute worst kind of pretentious names...

I'll raise you an Illbient and Wreckstep.
posted by eddydamascene at 8:26 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was a big fan of Mo Wax - Head was my jumping off point from rock and metal into more abstract music. Now, though, the name sounds oddly current, like a movember tie in styling product. Entroducing and mezzanine still hold up wonderfully, I think.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:34 PM on January 31, 2012


I have excellent news for the world...
posted by lkc at 12:37 AM on February 1, 2012


Len, that someone really should know better kinda makes it worse. Let's blame an editor.
posted by howfar at 12:56 AM on February 1, 2012


To be fair, the Bristol stoner stereotype is borne out by some kind of reality, but all this "town and gown" waffle is no truer of Bristol than it is of Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Cardiff etc, that is to say, anywhere with a more than a few students. I'm not knocking Bristol, but let's be a little realistic.
posted by howfar at 1:03 AM on February 1, 2012


Oh yeah, and "Drum and Bass", the middle class name for Jungle.

Oh come on now, one of them focuses on ... well, one is the rhythm, but the y'know sounds are different, not like the bass-line, but you know the samples, and stuff that sounds like spaceships or pink floyd. That stuff varies. Jungle focuses on the opposite.*

*disclaimer: I've actually said that.

Oh man I'd totally forgotten about the Tricky cover of Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.
Ick. I grew up a Public Enemy fan, and hearing that put Tricky on my "music enemies for life" list. To this day, I can listen to massive attack, but when it involves Tricky I just ... squick.

A few lifetimes ago, I used to go to a small bar in Tokyo called "Sugar High", which was covered in polaroids of famous musicians. One of the tables opposite the bar had a few photos of Tricky when he had come through. I know polaroids aren't flattering, but he looked a ghastly scarecrow of a man.

--

That being said, I loves me some DJ Shadow. I think "In Tune and On Time" is about as good as it gets in the Artsy DJ department.

A really unloved album is DJ Franes Frane's Fantastic Boatride

And since people are talking about Ninja Tune, another favorite of mine is Blockhead, who also keeps a blog that is a fucking riot. (its updated pretty substantially at least once a weekday, scroll a bit and you might find something that suits you.)
posted by lkc at 1:08 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sigh I used to love this stuff I expect it will be years before I can listen to it again. My ex used to work for the Warehouse. Just seeing this thread produced such a huge panic attack. Does anyone know how to disassociate beloved music from trauma of a disastrous relationship. Sorry have to go now I'm crying. fuck
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:48 AM on February 1, 2012


I am absolutely astounded I didn't realize Neneh Cherry was affiliated with Massive Attack.

Not to mention that she used to be in Rip Rig and Panic (mostly known from that Young Ones) episode way back when, who in turn starred several ex-members of the Pop Group, so she got connections to a lot of Bristolian pop history.

For those guffawing about Bristol, for those coming up from the West Country, Bristol is the nearest decent, slightly bohemian and arty city if you think Brighton too hippy; where else are you going to go, Plymouth?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:02 AM on February 1, 2012


I spent a year in Bristol because of the music which originated from there. I was of course way too late, the wild bunch was around in the early 80s and now it was around the time of Kosheen. Massive Attack is from before the 1st Iraq War whereas I was getting bitten by police horses protesting the 2nd. There were still police with machine guns in inner city areas, 100 drum n bass nights and 500 funk gigs, rastas smoking on their porch with dub wafting across a sunny St.Paul's afternoon; yet everything felt more gentrified as if whatever provided the ignition for these times was gone. And since thousands of pounds worth of gear were stolen during the move I never reached that dream of making triphop in Bristol and I would have to remain an outsider. I picked up a jazz bass and started learning this portishead riff and now I'm tracing those blue lines when I play jazz piano.
posted by yoHighness at 6:54 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those guffawing about Bristol, for those coming up from the West Country, Bristol is the nearest decent, slightly bohemian and arty city if you think Brighton too hippy; where else are you going to go, Plymouth?

I currently live in Plymouth. I grew up on Bodmin Moor. Bristol never represented the bright lights of Bohemia for me, bey.
posted by howfar at 7:55 AM on February 1, 2012


Ick. I grew up a Public Enemy fan, and hearing that put Tricky on my "music enemies for life" list.

Growing up I was a Public Enemy fan too, and this doesn't make sense to me. What was wrong with Tricky using a verse from Black Steel? It wasn't rightly a "cover"; borrowing verses was how he did almost all of his songs back then, I always thought it was kind of cool.
posted by Hoopo at 2:42 PM on February 1, 2012


I just didn't like it, Hoopoo.
Whether or not you want to call it a cover, lifting hip-hop verses wholesale is generally considered bad form, and covers are quite often are different musically.

Here, he took the striking, creative, bombastic narrative and turned it into this repetitive meandering brit-pop schlock.

I didn't hear the CD version, it was some performance on some bullshit MTv show, and everything about the guy rubbed me the wrong way. Viscerally, immediately. I didn't know who he was at the time, but I never shook that first impression.
posted by lkc at 10:03 PM on February 1, 2012


lifting hip-hop verses wholesale is generally considered bad form

Not really. It would be if you were writing them off as your own or something. The way Tricky approaches lyrics is no different than how producers treat sampling. Chuck D certainly didn't have a problem with it: It should be fun. One of the things that turned me on to Tricky is not so much that I was bashful him covering one of my records but that I was much more pleased in the way he flipped it. He just took it there. And a lot of cynics came out of the left-field, like: "This is shit, he didn't do it justice," but it's the fact that he turned it to fit his vision - to me, that's the same thing I try to do with R&B, or other songs that came before me. .

Anyways, you can listen to Tricky's first 2 albums (the ones I'm familiar with) and have fun trying to place the lyrics the same way you might be trying to place the source samples of beats on any other hip hop record. He borrows from Massive Attack, The Specials, Public Enemy, Chill Rob G, Slick Rick, Depeche Mode, ESG, and I'm pretty sure he's even taken from Nirvana and Kylie Minogue. He's a weird and interesting guy and I'd say it would be a damned shame to write him off over a perceived slight against PE.
posted by Hoopo at 11:17 PM on February 1, 2012


I was quite pleased with myself over posting this...
I got a letter from the government the other day, I opened and read it, it said they were suckers
posted by Artw at 11:53 AM on February 2, 2012


(Though with more effort I could have made it one of those letter-by-letter mystery meat posts that were the rage at the time.)
posted by Artw at 11:54 AM on February 2, 2012


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